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Spring, Isis and Resurrection by Sunny Strasburg, LMFT

Last modified on 2015-05-19 01:44:52 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Today, we are celebrating Spring, rebirth and renewal. Winter has ended. The dying back, the introversion and quiet, releasing anything unnecessary. Winter has its function– to clear the land to allow what is to come. And if we are in tune with the cycles of nature, we see that this clearing, death and letting go, and making room for new life, is not only literal, but also psychological.

And now, Spring has come, again. She is in full bloom, fertile and pregnant with infinite possibility. And I love the contrast of these two things…of life and death. The waxing and waning, entropy and syntropy. There is a beautiful balance in these cycles, and the human experience is feeling into the contrast, into the tension between opposites. So rather than just focusing on the light, I would like to take you into the archetypal meaning of resurrection.

This poem, titled the Goddess sums up the process perfectly…….

The Goddess

She had opened an immense hole in the soft ground, which she quickly digs up with her skeleton fingers, and bending her ribs and inclining her white smooth skull, she heaps together in the abyss old men and youths, women and children, cold, pale, and stiff, whose lids she silently closes.
“Ah, sighs the dreamer, who sadly and with heavy heart sees her accomplish her work, “accursed, accursed be thou, destroyer of beings, detestable and cruel Death, and mayest thou be dominated and desolated by the ever-renewed floods of mortal life!”
The grave-digger has arisen. She turns her face; she is now made of pink and charming flesh; her friendly brow is crowned with rosy corals. She bears in her arms fair naked children, who laugh to the sky, and she says softly to the dreamer, while gazing at him with eyes full of joy: ‘I am she who accomplishes without cease and without end the transformation of all. Beneath my fingers the flowers that have become cinders bloom once more, and I am both She whom thou namest Death, and She whom thou namest Life!

Theodore De Banville

There is an excitement with the dawn of new potential. Its like the discovery of a new lover. There is the fragility and tenderness, combined with the sense that lovers have been falling in love, and the birds and the bees have been coming back to life in the spring since time began.

In the old traditions, before the invention of agriculture, power and control, patriarchy and the western religions, spring and new life was celebrated with sex, parties, and play. In the old way, women and men had equal but different functions. The woman iwas the symbol of fertility, receptivity, and birth. Men were symbolized by shoots asserting themselves and rising from the earth like phalluses, penetrating the fertile soil and planting seeds. There is an Egyptian myth of King Osiris and Queen Isis that I will tell you now. It is a myth that has been repeated and retold in many different ways. And archetypal myth that is resilient int he psyches of peoples all over the world throughout time.

300px-Philae_Temple_Egypt_Goddess_Isis_As_Angel_Mural_Artwork_2004-10-11

 

 

The story has been retold as Dionysian Mysteries in Greece, of Adam and Eve in the Jewish tradition. Mary Magdalene and Jesus for Christians

King Osiris and Queen Isis were gods, lovers and co-rulers of Egypt. Each of them were adored and admired by the Egyptian people for their generosity, wisdom and fairness. Osiris was  patient and wise. And Isis was a strong, intelligent and very powerful sorceress. Prior to their ruling, Egypt was a land of chaos and cannibalism. They brought order and safety to the people. Isis stole the recipe for silver from the gods and taught the people the craft of silversmithing. She also taught them how to recognize the seeds for wheat and barley. Osiris showed the people how to plant the seeds, and grow crops. He educated the people law and order. All seemed right with the world, except Osiris’ brother Set was growing more and more jealous of Osiris and Isis. He was jealous  that the people of Egypt loved the ruling couple, and he was jealous of their power.

Set devised a scheme to do away with Osiris once and for all. One night, under the cover of darkness, Set snuck into the royal chamber and tricked Osiris into going outside with him to discuss matters of the state. Once he had him alone, he brutally murdered his brother. In order to kill an immortal God, Set had to chop Osiris into hundreds of tiny pieces. He scattered the bits far and wide all over the land of Egypt so that Osiris could never be fund again.

Isis was devastated when her husband was missing. She cried inconsolably for months. Rigid with grief, she laid in bed feeling hopeless. Set had taken the throne, and the people of Egypt were suffering from his cruelty.  Finally one morning, Isis realized Osiris was not going to return, and that he was dead. When enough tears had  been shed, Isis saw that her people were suffering. Isis decided that yes, she as a very powerful and magical sorceress. And that she could not back down to Set. She must fight for her people and fight for true love.

So she decided she would search for and gather every piece of Osiris. She began her long and arduous heroine’s journey…..Isis left no stone unturned. She searched the deserts and the jungles, the mountains, rivers and streams. And she did not rest until she had put Osiris back together….well almost…..The only piece of Osiris she could not find was his penis. The penis had been thrown into the Nile and eaten by a fish. So Isis being the creative woman that she was, fashioned a large penis out of clay and attached the last missing part of her husband. With this, she breathed the breath of life into Osiris and her husband was resurrected by her magic They were ecstatic to be together again, they had missed one another so much, and so right then and there, they made love immediately.

There was one day and one night of play, celebration and jubilance. The lovers were once again reunited. But this was not to last. After their love making, Osiris died once more and was sent back to the Underworld. And from that point onward, Osiris became the God of the Dead and Ruler of the Underworld. And Egyptians patterned their rituals of mummification to emulate the dismembered Osiris.

With this sacred act of resurrection, Isis became pregnant, and gave birth to their son, Horus, the Hawk God, God of the Sun.  The Pharaohs of Egypt were believed to be the mortal embodiment of Horus.

The celebrations of the seasons are more than celebrating the weather, they are the opportunity for each of us to recognize our own belonging to these elemental energies. And when we pull back the lens to see the greater view, we see one another as pieces of a greater, unified whole. We are each the dismembered pieces of Osiris, and we use these rituals of connection to reconnect t that feeling of unity and celebration to create something new.

And so now, as you reflect on this myth and archetype of resurrection, ask yourself in  what ways have you become the Phoenix? How have you been reborn? What has died within you? What have you had to regather and reconnect? Are there pieces of your soul that are scattered and that need to be retrieved? And what must you unify within your psyche to give birth to something utterly new?

Bless you this year. May all your biggest dreams fertilize and manifest in your world.

Beautiful Bizarre Interview

Last modified on 2015-04-28 03:13:54 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Fantastic interview with Martin Stensaas by Beautiful Bizarre Magazine. Lots of his work, and collaborations with me, and other artists!

https://beautifulbizarre.net/2015/04/28/studio-visit-interview-with-martin-stensaas/

Around the Time the Second Cup is Offered
Around the Time the Second Cup is Offered

Last modified on 2014-12-29 19:57:04 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

“Tiger Lotus” is almost done! Martin and I have been collaborating on this. Its getting lots and lots of love on every square inch! Here is Steezus overseeing the painting…….

Tiger Lotus by Sunny Strasburg and Martin Stensaas. Detail of WIP

 

 

 

Tiger Lotus by Sunny Strasburg and Martin Stensaas. Detail of WIP

 

Tiger Lotus by Sunny Strasburg and Martin Stensaas. Detail of WIP

 

tiger3

Tee Available NOW!

Last modified on 2014-09-26 00:09:21 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I’m soooo excited that our first Tshirt with Threyda is hot off the press and ready to wear! Gorgeous 360 degree printing……Get yours!  “Around the Time The Second Cup is Offered” http://www.threyda.com/collections/apparel/products/second-cup-sublimation-tee-by-martin-stensaas-sunny-strasburg-ben-wiemeyer

I'm soooo excited that our first Tshirt with Threyda is hot off the press and ready to wear! Gorgeous 360 degree printing......Get yours! "Around the Time The Second Cup is Offered" http://www.threyda.com/collections/apparel/products/second-cup-sublimation-tee-by-martin-stensaas-sunny-strasburg-ben-wiemeyer
I’m soooo excited that our first Tshirt with Threyda is hot off the press and ready to wear! Gorgeous 360 degree printing……Get yours! “Around the Time The Second Cup is Offered” http://www.threyda.com/collections/apparel/products/second-cup-sublimation-tee-by-martin-stensaas-sunny-strasburg-ben-wiemeyer

Eclectix Review

Last modified on 2014-09-17 20:48:06 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Here is the great review of our collaborative show “Red Tide” at Bash Contemporary in San Francisco, July-Sept, 2014
http://eclectix.com/the-oyster-pirates-red-tide-exhibition/

The Deepening of Intimacy~Collaborations

Last modified on 2014-07-16 21:30:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

"Dragon" Opening at Bash Contemporary, SF 2014
“Dragon” Opening at Bash Contemporary, SF 2014

I recently stood in a gallery in San Francisco that my art work was hanging in, just before the opening reception, and reflected on the long road that brought me to that very moment. It’s always surprising for me to see my work, all framed and well lit, in the formal sanctuary of an art gallery. There was such an interesting path to birth these colorful, dynamic paintings of snakes and dragons.

"Around the Time the Second Cup is Offered"

In the past, standing like this with my art hung in a gallery, would bring a feeling of shyness and undeserved attention. I would nervously notice where I had made mistakes and fallen short in my skill or color choices. But that day, I felt proud. There were many reasons for this feeling. I felt proud because the work speaks for itself, it draws the viewer in, it represents the numinous and subject matter I find sacred. It also mirrors a process of unique collaboration and growing love between friends.

During the past few months, I’ve been creating collaborative paintings with graffiti artist, Benny Wiemeyer and my husband, fine art painter, Martin Stensaas.

There is a magical synergy between the three of us. Benny has an aggressive, angular decisive mark making…very linear and loud. Martin, in contrast, is more thoughtful and extremely skilled…he pulls the elements together in a unique way that unifies the composition. I bring an emotionally connected, feminine, figural style. This combination makes for an interesting blend of complimentary approaches that together seem to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

When we began working together, we could all feel the magic of this union. We decided to create more work together. We began painting regularly in our studio in Salt Lake City. We started two canvases the same day and all three of us jumped back and forth on them simultaneously. These marathon nights of painting were complimented with music, laughter and good food.

Painting "Dragon" with Benny at Building Man music festival 2014
Painting “Dragon” with Benny at Building Man music festival 2014

 

This has been very interesting for my relationship to my own work, my relationship with Martin, and our new friendship with Benny. Martin and I are getting to know one another in a new way. There is a strange intimacy that forms when painting with someone closely in live collaboration. I may pull a long stroke with a loaded brush across the canvas in blue. Martin comes in and modifies my fresh mark, going down the opposite direction. Benny sprays the canvas with water and paint drips down. We grab the rubber-tip brushes and cut into the moist paint, reducing back to the underpainting while it’s still workable.

The collective decisions of form, content, and color composition are not like what any one of us would have made if we had been painting alone, caught in our old tricks and habits. I witness my collaborators’ thought processes, their minds responding to the impromptu flow, and react to mine. There is a quick decisiveness that is required as the paint dries. There is a live in-the-moment inspiration that is created from this verb of painting together.

I am constantly checking in with myself….How do I feel about that mark Benny made? Am I precious about my own? Do I let it go? Do I make a mark on Martin’s? Am I excited about what just took place—do I see fresh potential there?

What I usually end up doing is asking myself, “Is there something I can learn from this decision he has made?” And constantly learn and grow through the process.

Rarely does one of us insist that some area be cordoned off from further exploration because we are precious about it. Collaborating like this requires a constant checking of ego. Knowing when to let go, and when to make a decision and claim the theme or the composition is an ongoing balancing act. Painting this way has a feminine aspect to it….there is receptivity and surrender. There is also a child-like energy of exploration—a willingness to create something new and inspired- something you would never create within the confining habits of one’s own mind.

There is of course plenty of manly yang energy, too: making marks, taking up canvas real estate and directing. But somewhere in the middle, the painting begins to unfurl like a baby being born out of a feminine and masculine unification, which creates a third, new creation. There is a libidinal power in the collaborative process. It is not directly sexual, but it contains a shared, intimate eros.

In our relationships, there is a camaraderie that has grown between us–all three of us. There is a particular kind of insight when we see into someone’s style directly -knee deep in their flow and making waves. In this dance we can watch the way others free associate from the marks. When we see places each of us are struggling. We may honor and nurture that weakness, or push one another into trying something new. We can see where we shine, and honor the unique talent and skill we each offer into the mix. All of us are becoming better painters from our collaborations. I feel excited to work with other artists and sense of this synergy is common or rare with other combinations of personalities and skills.

 

Martin, Benny & Me

And as for my marriage, there is a new energy and life in it from painting together. Martin and I have always gotten along, famously for those who know us. In addition to being a painter for a long time, I am now also a Jungian psychotherapist focusing on marriage and family therapy. This helps our relationship of course, and I’m always fine tuning our communication and flow to deepen our connection. So in addition to processing our feelings about our marriage and our kids’ wellbeing, we talk a lot about art– the psychology of art, why we create what we do, and look into the deeper insights about the role of imagery in the world. This new frontier of painting together has opened a vein of gold within our dyad. A new depth and discovery of parts of one another we haven’t yet discovered. I wonder what the next chapter holds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RED TIDE ART EXHIBITION

Last modified on 2014-06-30 19:20:47 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

RED TIDE ART EXHIBITION

Justapoz July 2014: Red Tide Oyster Pirates
Justapoz July 2014: Red Tide Oyster Pirates

Featuring the works of Martin Stensaas, collaborations with the Oyster Pirates, Sunny Strasburg and Benjamin Wiemeyer

Bash Contemporary

210 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Opening July 11 /Reception July 12 6-9pm

roup Show featuring the work of the Oyster Pirates (Sri Whipple, Jason Wheatley/Tiku, Christian Michael) featuring Martin Stensaas
July 11th – August 9th, 2014
Opens July 11th
Artist Reception Saturday, July 12th | 6-9PM
Closes August 9th

http://www.bashcontemporary.com/

Map: http://www.bashcontemporary.com/Contact.html#home

Eros and Chaos

Last modified on 2014-06-26 19:00:01 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Eros and Chaos

Sunny Strasburg

There is first chaos and then surrender, and finally the dream that comes before welcoming in true love. I have done this… struggle, feel sad, and finally surrender. This transmutes into a quiet, and yet watchful, openness to opportunity.  Then love arrives into our world, and the evolution into Eros unfurled between two people with abandon. As James Hillman says, Eros is tied to chaos, and depends on it for its revivification.

 

Out of chaos, comes a moment to set the dream, the intention. Out of necessity we have to let go of everything first. Only then can we welcome the dream in, and allow however it wants to assert itself into our waking lives.  With humility, we wait quietly, and hone our agility to jump at the opportunity for love.

 

James Hillman  says, “Love that leads to psyche is not bound by human concerns and conditions. It is both active and receptive. It comes into life as a grace, so that, like the Psyche of the tale, one has a relationship to love itself.”

 

And here we are~ the dream becomes the reality.

 

If you’re open to it, this very Eros principle that brought you two together, will also bring just enough chaos and challenge to spark an ever-present new challenge and new chapter. Your task is to honor that erotic spark as it changes disguises and dances across different stages of your world.

 

And so I wish for your dream~ the love you have cultivated between you~ to be full of Eros…..but with a little chaos mixed in.

 

As Nietzsche says, You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.”

Summer Solstice by Sunny Strasburg

Last modified on 2014-06-26 19:01:30 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

 

Summer Solstice~ the longest day and shortest night. This day marks the halfway point of the solar year. A time when crops are beginning to flourish and herbs are at their maximum, medicinal potency.

In old Egypt, as they moved into an agricultural society, the Sun quickly rose to greater prominence than the Moon. Notable Sun gods have been Ra, Aton and Horus. The myth tells of the scarab beetle rolling the Sun across the sky to bring each new day.

In Greece, he is Helios, and the Romans called him, Juno. HELIOS is also the guardian of oaths and the god of sight. Helios dwells in a golden palace located in the River Okeanos at the eastern ends of the earth. Upon each dawn, from his palace, he emerges, driving a chariot drawn by four, fiery, winged horses and crowned with the aureole of the sun. When he reaches the land of the Hesperides , which translates to Evenings, in the West he descends into a golden cup which carries him around the northern streams of Okeanos back to his rising place in the East.

For the Aztecs, Huitzilopochtli, the warrior god, a sun god, fought against darkness, and required his worshipers to make regular sacrifices to ensure the sun’s survival over the next fifty-two years.

For the Pagans, today is Litha, the counterpoint of Yule.

The themes of Summer Solstice are sex, love, creativity, energy, luck, health and wishes. “Solstice” comes from the Latin “sol” meaning sun, and “sistere,” to cause to stand still. As the summer solstice draws near, the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky each day. On the day of the solstice, it rises an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before, thus appearing to “stand still.” In the magical sense, Summer Solstice brings us to the halfway point of the Wheel of the Year. The sun is in His full reign, reaching a peak in the sky. It’s intensity brings stark clarity to anything obscured by the dark of night. The brilliance of the sun allows us to see clearly our shadows, banishing that which does not serve us and releasing the past.

The offering of today for you is to ask, “What in my life has been clarified and revealed?”

“What am I ready to release?”

and “What do I desire to bring in before the end of my season?”

This is a masculine holiday, as opposed to the yin, the dark, dank and feminine winter solstice. I reflect on all the ways we as a culture, having denied the feminine for so long, are now in an overcompensating cycle of denying all that is overtly masculine.

Whether you are a man or a woman, perhaps ask yourself, “In what ways have I turned away from the masculine drive that is within me?”  In what ways does Calcinatio, the alchemical word for fire in the east, burn within me? Is it manifested as anger, or drive, creativity or passion?

This is a day for the masculine gods…the yang aspect of plants thrusting up out out of the ground, asserting their life force, growing and spreading their leaves, asserting and creating. Animals are mating and giving birth. And energy is rising within all the living beings on the planet. In these long, energetic days, and warm nights, can you feel the energy of that masculine drive? Can you feel the chi culminating, beckoning you to create something new? And do you recognize the desire to be wild rising up out of your depths?

The sun is the ultimate source of fire and light. Like all sources of light, the sun shines brightly and spreads around the world. Even as it gives its light and power to each of us, it is never diminished by the sharing of that energy. The sun passes over us each day, in the never-ending circle of light. Today, we share that light with each other, passing it around the circle, forming a ring of light.

 

Summer solstice

by

Liba Waring Stambollion

 

In fullness

Maturity

Grandeur,

He shines on this day of ampleur

The day has never been so long

The solar heart is bright and strong

 

Burn, cook,consume, mystify

Reveal, enlighten,purify

In this game

of wax and wane

My Father dances

And romances

My Mother in Her Maiden state.

Her hair full with

Cinamon and spices

Night jasmine and roses red as blood

Lace Her jacket and Her hood.

Rivers enrobe Her as Her  gown

12 stars encircle as Her crown

 

Songs from fields of crickets

Are heard in all the thickets

Declaring far and wide

The Sun has wed his bride

 

Into the grain He goes

Her womb full with seed

Into the grain he goes

For that is what he needs

To move through his Wife

To regenerate Life.

 

His fire captures

Her bliss enraptures

This is their day of Love

As below, so above

As outside, So inside

Our hearts rejoice far and wide

For This revelation

Of Love’s celebration.

 

This is the time of year to write down any wishes you have and throw them, along with an offering to the Sun God, into the fire. And most of all, to allow yourself to be the wild, wonderful creature that you are~ howling and dancing!

New Collaborations

Last modified on 2014-05-15 21:27:12 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I have been collaborating with other artists. Specifically Martin Stensaas and Benjamin Weimeyer. Its been incredibly fun to explore so intimately with other creators. It feels no less than a revolution within my creative world.

 

Collaborations with Ben Weimeyer and Martin Stensaas
Collaborations with Ben Weimeyer and Martin Stensaascollab6

 

Night Musings

Last modified on 2014-05-03 23:34:09 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Night Musings

Nike by Sunny Strasburg
Nike by Sunny Strasburg

Sunny Strasburg, LMFT

Some nights I wake up at 3:00 in the morning, and lie in bed with my mind racing within and around my existential angst. There’s an unsettling combination feeling of yearning along with bittersweet nostalgia. It’s nostalgia for my own mortality and watching the process of my ego tenaciously holding on to what I believe “Me” is. The internal witness observes my body and soul held between two worlds…one in which I am decomposing and degrading with each passing moment, and the other world in which my cells replicate and regenerate. Held in that holographic pattern of “Me” is the psyche…perhaps. Or, it is equally possible that my Self has been created by a complex series of operant conditioning with variable outcomes? Entropy and syntropy in a homeostatic flux.

Perhaps my memory bank is (merely) a fantastic bundle of neurons cruising along dendrites and firing synapses. When I have this thought, I become profoundly sad. I try to hold that it is a possibility that this may be the totality of meaning in being human. I am saddened that this is offered to us as a sufficient explanation of consciousness by our default cultural system, which has been built for centuries on the Cartesian split between mind and matter.

As I ponder this, it is very odd to me that I also consider the “nostalgia” neuron crackling in the back roads of my brain. How bizarre it is to think about this as it is actually happening. What inevitably follows is that, in perhaps an ego defensive way, I consider that there is something else beyond mere chaos and survival to my experience. Is love only for social survival and generativy?

There must be some meaning and intentional organization to the spectacle that is my reality. This scene plays out often in my psyche. I know the cascading scenes so well it feels like I’m watching a play written by B.F. Skinner for the umpteenth time.

Mystical experiences are the only thing that has persuaded me to believe there is some intention to the universe. Now I think that rather than chaos, we live in a system of realities based on syntropy and entropy. Intention, love, and consciousness create syntropy and fear, anger and hatred devolve into entropy. The natural and most pure manifestation of intention seems to be love. For humans, love is the only thing that connects, complexifies and defies entropy. Again, this could be purely my value system being projected in this thesis. We have no way of assessing the validity of either my statement or your reaction to it without returning to the vantage points of our individual realities.

I study depth psychology. The most salient aspect of it for me is the complexity of the psyche. It is the only theoretical framework I have found that says “and” rather than “or”. Like Hinduism, it is able to hold paradox, embrace the process, rather than the conclusion, and hold all other theories within it. I do agree that, as Jung said, the universe is archetypal by nature…at least in the way our minds perceive it.

We as humans, appear to be hard-wired for story. We need a narrative, a meaning infused into everything. The external reality of our personal histories is irrelevant, really. What did or did not happen isn’t as important as how we interpreted what happened.

Storytelling has been used for millennia to heal ourselves. Our memories are encoded either in our unconscious minds and our bodies, or explicitly in our autobiographical minds. The visual representation and the recollection of the experience which accompanies its creation and reflection can transfer the memories from implicit to explicit. When individuals are given a chance to reintegrate their emotions and image of Self, we are allowed a glimpse that something else within us is possible.

And if nothing else, psychedelic trance and visionary states tell us there is more….more to the explanation of the story, to the psychic landscape. Ultimately, mythology is not about its own content, but about us, our challenges, dangers and rewards that await each of us on our paths. The fact that we share these myths individually and cross-culturally demonstrates that we have more in common with one another than circumstances may suggest. Additionally, the common themes and visions while navigating psychedelic worlds suggest to me that there are other, deeper archetypal realities to tap into.

As individuals who together create a collective consciousness, it would serve us well to uncover, develop and make peace with our personal narratives, and consciously integrate them into a larger global experience. The art of storytelling and replaying our cultural mythology fulfills this need. A lucid tool such as the use of dreamstates may facilitate and hasten a fluency in constructing and understanding personal narrative.

It is clear to me that we can only activate our own destiny when we awaken to the fact that our destiny is only ours if we create it. This is our choice. As we tell and re-tell our life stories, our character has the opportunity to move further away from the role of victim in a perilous universe, toward the role of a heroine on a path to triumph and self discovery. This process can be expedited by the presence of a sensitive and reflective healer, be it a shaman, mentor or a therapist. In particular, this process can be lubricated and facilitated by shamanic trance, meditation, or dreamwork.

Often, however, the experience of these voyages are so foreign and confusing that I have no reference point for its interpretation. As I filter the experience back through my monkey’s mind, the assimilation process inevitably leads to some imaginal myth building. It seems people who have near death experiences come back saying they saw Brahman (if they’re Hindu), Jesus (if they’re Catholic), and the Visitors (if they’re UFOlogists). It’s all the same really-it’s all an archetype. It will be the archetype of a savior if you’re in a good place, and a demon if you’re not. And in no way am I implying that these experiences are not real. In fact, they are the most real, because archetypes are not connected with their specific presentation, but the story they tell. Another way to say this is that archetypes are verbs rather than nouns.

So in my nights filled with existential angst, what gets me back to sleep is…”If anything is possible, what do I want to create?”  If any reality is possible, why be a nihilist? That’s such a limited and sad existence. I would rather be a magical explorer with the belief that the Goddess/God is benevolent and loving and her attendants have my best interest in mind. That is so much more comforting.

Returning to SLC, Utah Feb 3, 2014

Last modified on 2014-01-28 01:20:29 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I am happy to announce I return to my Salt Lake City, Utah office on Feb 3, 2014. I offer therapy for individuals, couples and families. I meet with local clients for in-person sessions, as well as offer Skype therapy for long distance clientele. If I can be of service, and you would like to make an appointment, please email me at sunnys@jps.net.

Happy Holidays 2013

Last modified on 2013-12-24 19:08:05 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

Nike by Sunny Strasburg
Nike by Sunny Strasburg

This is a year of firsts. This is our family’s first year away from extended family and home. This is our first holiday in the tropics. And this is also our first Christmas when our kids are old enough to realize Santa Clause is not a literal physical entity, but rather a spirit who possesses us to be generous, loving and altruistic. They are old enough to not mistake poetry for prose, as Joseph Campbell would say.

And, this is the first Christmas our family chose to genuinely embody the spirit of giving rather than fixate on receiving.

But let me back up, because this idea was precipitated by a very unique experience for Martin and me that left an indelible mark on my psyche.  About a month ago, Marty and I were driving our old truck down to town for our once-a-week foray to the feria for our organic vegetables and fruit for the week.

As often happens, we ran into a friend who thumbed us down and asked for a ride to his house down in San Isidro. He is a soft-spoken Tico named, Marcos (I changed his name), who we have hired to do a few odd jobs for us over the last year. Marcos is unique because he has olive skin with sparkling, blue eyes, and a genuine, lopsided smile and easy laugh that I have never seen him without.

He climbed into the truck and carefully packed away a small bag of oranges into his pack. After the usual greetings, we asked him about his family and what he was up to. He began to excitedly tell us all about an upcoming event he was planning for the “very poor children” in his village. He explained that most of them don’t have more than one simple toy, or a pair of good shoes to wear. Once a year, a week before Christmas, Marcos and some of his friends organize a gift giving celebration complete with Papi Noel giving gifts to these struggling families. All of the gifts are donated by other families in the neighborhood.

I excitedly offered in Spanish, “We can donate! What do you need?” And he answered, “Anything. It can even be used already. Toys and shoes, pots, pans. Whatever you feel like giving.”

After a few more minutes chatting, I asked, “Marcos, I have never seen a photo of your daughter, Prisila. She’s about 5 isn’t she? Do you have a photo?”

He dug his phone out of his pocket and looked down at the phone. He opened a photo on the screen, but before showing it around to us, he looked intently at the screen for a few moments, reflecting on his little girl with that lopsided smile.

He passed it around, and there she was, a little, blonde beauty with those same blue eyes as her dad. She also had that same smile as Marcos, but I quickly noticed that she had a severe scar from a cleft palate surgery running down from her nose to her upper lip.

“What a beauty! What is her personality like?” I said after gazing at her happy face smiling back at me from the screen.

“She is a happy child. We didn’t know if she was going to be ok. But we are so lucky she is here with us. She is a miracle! The doctor told us we should not have more children because of her cleft palate. I am so happy we have her!” He said, looking down at the photo sincerely.

As we approached Marcos’ neighborhood, I looked around at the homes. It was clean—no litter to speak of, but very run down. The houses were tiny shacks made of scrap materials…. tin roofs, concrete blocks, mud walls. ‘I can see how these families need some basic things.’  I thought to myself.

We finally arrived at Marcos’ house. It was a tiny home of the same random materials cobbled together to get a roof over a family’s head. It looked just like all the other meager homes we had been driving past. You could tell it was built from whatever was available to people with very few resources to purchase materials.

Marcos eagerly invited us in for lunch, without a glimpse of self-consciousness about his humble home. His energy was one of genuine, open joy to have new friends to share with. “Please, join us!” he implored, waving his hand in that funny, backwards way Ticos do, beckoning us to come inside.

We went in to meet his wife, Maria. She came forward for a hug with a big, welcoming smile. And there was his daughter, Prisila, standing behind her mother, trying to hide. I got a peek at her smile as she peered out from behind mom’s legs, shyly covering her mouth.

“Please come in and have lunch with us!” Maria offered. And she hurried back into the kitchen. A few minutes later, she returned with a small bowl of noodles and canned tuna fish, and 5 plates. I had no idea how she was going to divide up the tiny bowl of pasta, but somehow she did…each plate with six or so noodles and a tablespoon on tuna on top.

We ate and laughed, talking about the goings on in the area. The family was so sincere and humble. Little Prisila finally took her hand from her mouth and giggled shyly whenever we looked over at her.

As Maria cleared the plates, Marcos leaned forward to us and said in a low voice, “Cada dia es un milagro!” Each day is a miracle. And then he continued, “Every day, I wake up and ask God, ‘What is it I can give to you when You have given me so much? I have done nothing to deserve Your generosity. Now it is my time to give back some of what I have been given.’”

After lunch, we gathered our things and said goodbye to Marcos and his family. And as we walked back to our truck…the old truck I constantly complained bitterly about for being a ‘junker’, I was awestruck with how much abundance I take for granted. ‘What have I done to be so lucky in this life?’ I thought to myself. What have I given back to account for everything that has been given to me?

I have always prided myself on giving donations, volunteering and trying to be generous, but all this is relatively pale in comparison to Marcos, who, by North American standards, has almost nothing. Rather than complaining about his misfortune, he is focused on helping the ‘very poor’ people in his village, appreciating the miracle of having Prisila, and showing gratitude for some food on the table to share with new friends. I’m sure there are times he gets frustrated and forgets, like any human will do, to be thankful. But from what I have seen, his set-point for happiness is at a low enough level that he spends much of his time with a smile on his face and gratitude in his heart. Now I am left wondering if I am really the lucky one, or if he is.

That afternoon, we delivered a few gifts for the neighborhood children to Marcos. And yesterday, we ran into him at the local pulperia. He eagerly dug his phone out of his pocket and showed me three photos taken of Papi Noel handing the gifts out to the children. They looked at Papi Noel with absolute wonder and hope.

I felt the genuine gratitude these kids had for the most humble of gifts. I remembered years of gifts so high around our tree, our kids got bored opening all of them. I thought about the photos I had just seen on the internet of North Americans fighting over TV’s at Walmart. I thought about all the homeless and impoverished people freezing in the back alleys of the USA, while families less than a mile away enjoy dinner, oblivious to the suffering so close to their homes. But most of all, I felt gratitude for the gift Marcos gave to me this year, as often as I can remember to ask of life (or God, Universe, Goddess, Allah, or Higher Spirit), “What can I do for you today when you have given me so much?

Exodus from Eden

Last modified on 2013-11-16 19:24:30 GMT. 8 comments. Top.

What an interesting journey life is. Do you ever have those defining moments in life? A time when you know in the context of your entire existence, right now, is going to become a life-changing pivot-point? Have you ever thought, even fleetingly, “This moment will forever change the course of my trajectory.”? I am experiencing just that, right now. And not only me, but my four other co-pilots on this wild and wacky life adventure as well.

About one year ago, our family moved to Costa Rica from downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. The decision was difficult, and it was an enormous task for my husband and I to move three children, one dog and one cat, by suitcase, to a foreign country. This wasn’t a flippant decision, mind you. It came after pining to get out of the US, and eight years of month-long expeditions all over Costa Rica to find just the right spot to settle. The year 2012 was spent entirely on working our asses off, paying off debts, packing and planning our exodus. When our friends were worrying about the world ending in December, 2012, we were looking forward to our lives beginning.

I felt sure, as sure as I could be, that this was the right decision. Its funny how thinking through something and actually experiencing something, can be so entirely different.

When we arrived last January, there was a brief sigh of relief. We made it! We actually did it! WOW! We chose a very rural pueblo in the mountains, where there was a small extpat community, a small school and epic views of the jungle. The air is so clean and fresh. The food is so pure. Every time we came across a Tico, we were met with a smile and a wave. It was almost Twilight Zone-ish how perfect it all seemed. “Where is the Shadow of this place? Every place has a Shadow!” I insisted. But I was only met with shrugs from neighbors.

And we settled into a humble, rental house and got into daily life in Costa Rica. We sent the kids off to the local school, and went about our lives. After the first week of school, the 10 year old twins came home and announced, “This place sucks. This school sucks. The other kids bully us. We want to go home!” Before we moved to Costa Rica, they had attended a wonderful public charter school that focused on the arts. The kids had excelled there, and they were missing it terribly.

“I know it’s hard guys, but as soon as you speak Spanish, it will get better. Give it some time. Don’t give up. This is your new home now”

But as the days settled into weeks, and weeks into months, I found myself beginning to question this dream into which we had leapt feet-first. I started to find myself in deep doldrums of introspection. This gave way to depression. With my usual external validators from my home culture stripped away from me, I felt disoriented and sad.

And kids never did feel better about school. The bullying didn’t stop. We spoke to the maestra at least a half dozen times, and again she would just shrug off our concern and remind the kids to bring their pencils, and say, “Kids just bully each other.”

I began to see that school in Costa Rica is about compliance. This culture is very socialistic. Learning to get along, not stand out, and go with the flow is how you do well here. We talked ourselves into the quirkiness that the school was randomly cancelled, that times of classes changed every day without warning, and the kids spent more time in class eating, saluting the flag and brushing their teeth than learning math and reading.

And mind you, I don’t disagree that this way may be a better than our competitive, dog-eat-dog culture in the north. Competing, individualism and bold self expression are shunned in Costa Rica. Our children, having grown up in the most individualistic culture in the world, and having even more individualistic parents, could not figure out how to survive in school. And that combined with the fact that centuries of horrendous Latin America foreign policy by the US has bred animosity toward gringos. The kids could feel the bias against them. But Martin and I just kept urging them to stick with it., “You can’t just give up the minute it gets hard!”

In general, Ticos are very deferential and non-confrontational. I have never once seen a Tico yelling or act stern, even to their own children. They are a very happy people. Many studies show them to be some of the longest living, joyful people on the planet. We, gringos, see that, appreciate that, and want that for ourselves. So we move here, seeking to create that experience. But having that comes with the need to be wrapped and raised in the culture, womb-to-tomb. It is incredibly difficult to come from the competitive, results-oriented culture of the USA and merge into the community-based, process-oriented system in Costa Rica.

That being said however, if you are a sensitive or observant person, as you dig deeper and live here awhile, you get the sense that underneath that smile and “Buenos Dias!”, there might be a reservoir of resentment toward you as a foreigner. It isn’t from every Tico, but I feel it from many. It comes from the fact that in general, gringos have wealth and options, and the Ticos do not. They are working their asses off in their own country for a pittance for rich foreigners. No matter how nice and friendly, this socio-economic difference is there. And in my opinion, anyone who denies it, is kidding themselves.

Of course, there are many sides to the story, and an infinite set of realities. We would go to the Feria on Thursdays, where Marcos, the organic veggie farmer was genuinely warm and kind. Our housekeeper, Jaqui laughed and played with our kids with such love and warmth, she has became part of our family. Farmers and friends everywhere waving and greeting with cheek-kisses and hugs. And our relationship with our town’s gringo community was deepening. Many brunch’s at the local cafe were filled with laughter with expats. Morning trail runs were epically stunning. Dinner with friends, kids playing and laughing filled me with joy. All of it added sweetness to our time here.

But as the months wore on, I couldn’t resolve the doubt in my mind. In our little village, gringos were being robbed, and it only underscored the economic chasm I had been feeling. At night, the feeling was the worst. I missed my family in Utah. I missed my therapy office and clients. I missed my gym. I missed just being able to go to Whole Foods, or order sexy boots on Amazon and have them shipped to my house the next day. I missed the change of seasons.

Giving voice to my doubts to my husband, Martin only brought up his own. Rather than commiserate, he initially erupted in anger at my naming the doubt he himself was feeling. We chalked up my agitation to culture shock, or peri-menopause, adrenal fatigue, or maybe I am just crazy….unable to embrace the simple joy of living in paradise. He would look at me sternly and say, “We have worked so hard to get here. It took us YEARS to get here. We are not turning back!”

But no matter how long I meditated, how long I journaled, how long I trail ran in this gorgeous paradise, I never felt better. I felt as though, as beautiful and idyllic this place is, there is not enough for me here. My brain was not being stimulated. I was beginning to feel like a jungle cat in the zoo, pacing back and forth at the fence line wearing down the grass to dirt. Gnawing on my own paws. How is it possible to show up in paradise and be so unhappy?!

We went to the States in July to prepare our house to sell. We stayed in it, and it brought back all the happy memories of living there. I realized there was so much I hadn’t appreciated before because we were working feverishly to escape it. I begged Martin not to sell the house, to move back to Utah. “There is no going back,” he said, “We are at the pinnacle of culture shock. Hang in there, Babe.”

I talked myself into Costa Rica…the rightness of it. I denied my gut instincts and pushed the doubt down deep inside my soul. In the week we put the house on the market, I became horribly ill. A psychosomatic representation of all that doubt I had swallowed. “You’ll feel better, Babe, when we get back to Costa Rica.” Martin said. But his concern was starting to grow. Even though his words didn’t express it, I could see his own doubt percolating to the surface.

And he was right,  I did feel better physically. The return to clean air and food, and lots of rest was very nourishing. We came back to our little pueblo and back to our monotonous rhythm. I awoke in the mornings to a myriad of bird calls, delicious coffee and a leisurely day spread out before me, and asked myself how on earth this couldn’t be enough for me? The pure environment, smiles and friends filled up the sadness…at least for awhile.

But then two small events brought out not only my decision to leave paradise, but Martin’s as well, to the surface.

The first event was when we were traveling in Costa Rica, our housekeeper stayed at the house. One night, someone entered the house to rob us. Our dog and Jaqui ran downstairs and chased him out before anything was taken. Our guess was maybe in this tiny, one-road pueblo, one of those smiles and waves was also noting that we were leaving town. The car wasn’t in the driveway, so the thief suspected the house was empty. We have almost nothing worth stealing (in my opinion, perhaps not in theirs). No TV, no expensive electronics except the computer. But this gave me a terrible feeling that we stick out like sore thumbs. We are a target just because we are gringos, and all gringos are perceived as wealthy.

The second incident was regarding the school. One day, our eldest son came home sobbing so hard, he couldn’t catch his breath. He is an incredibly sensitive, gentle child and I couldn’t imagine what had happened. His twin sister told us the course of events as I tried to calm him down.  The kids had final exams and we told them they probably wouldn’t need their textbooks because the last time they didn’t use them. After exams, the maestra told them all to open their science books. Our son didn’t bring his of course. The teacher became angry and forced him to sit in front of the class, doing nothing (akin to the dunce-cap days of yore in the USA) for two entire hours. As he sat there, he began to cry. Being a machismo culture, the boys in the class began to taunt him. The only English they know was “Fuck you.” which they chanted over and over. The maestra did nothing to stop this. Our son became so distraught that he began banging his head over and over on the table. The teacher then accused him of damaging school property. At this point, hysterical and frustrated, he stormed out  of the classroom and ran home, and his sister followed.

I encouraged him to write a letter to the teacher to defend himself and help him feel more empowered. He wrote a beautiful letter, first empathizing with her experience, and then explain his own. The ending sentence was a request that she please try to understand his experience and protect him from the bullying. We then translated the letter into Spanish and brought it to her the next morning. With his father at his side, he presented the letter to the maestra. She read it without expression, grunted and handed it back to him. Tears began to stream down his cheeks. “Kids bully.” she said, flatly, “You forgot your toothbrush yesterday. Don’t forget it again.”

I don’t feel the teacher was abusive, as we might be tempted to believe in relation to our culture. I think she was trying to help our son be part of the group. She wanted to help him by breaking what she perceived as a spoiled, insolent spirit down in order to comply with what the group is doing. This is how you succeed in life here.

But for us, that was the final straw. Something opened up for Martin that he had been suppressing all the year before. Martin couldn’t deny his doubt any longer and it all bubbled to the surface at once. He said, “The kids aren’t going back to that school.”

We talked for days about what to do. Should we go back? Is it culture shock? Should we homeschool? Are we going to give up this dream after so much work to get here? Are we basing a decision on a couple of little circumstances that do not indicate what the rest of our experience will be like in Costa Rica? In that week, I received an email from the kids’ school principal in the States. She invited them to return if we ever chose to move back to Utah. It almost felt like a sign.

After much introspection and discussion and another three week trip to Utah, we decided to move back. “Back into the belly of the beast!” Martin announced.

I don’t feel those two events were entirely what made us decide to move back to Utah. But they were small tipping points on a much bigger scale. And there are so many wonderful things about Costa Rica, that I feel it is likely we will spend a lot of time here over the coming years. I do feel if we chose to stay, the culture shock would diminish and I trust we would find ways to thrive here. Many gringos love it in Costa Rica and would never dream of going back into “Babylon”.

Archetypally, it feels like we are being expelled out of Eden. If only I could have stayed naive to the yearnings of worldly things. If I turned a blind eye to the complexity of western culture, and to asserting my individuality, I could happily stay in Eden. But my very nature is to question, and to seek. The serpent kept slithering into my dreamworld, whispering to me in my sleep. And I spoke with the serpent about all these doubts I was having. And like Eve did to Adam, I rose the inherent doubt within Martin to the surface. I try to console myself that although we will leave Eden, nothing makes me forget what it was like to live there. We carry that seed of Eden within ourselves and the experience will forever be in me.

What is obvious to me after this experience is, I need to finally embrace that I am a North American, and I will never be anything else. I love the infrastructure of the States. I love the convenience, the ability to work doing what I love. I love the stimulation, the educational system for my kids. And I love the individualism. It is the only thing I know how to be.

But I also love Costa Rica. I love the nature, the friends, the tranquility. Costa Rica will also always be a second home to me. And just as we feel about home, I am conflicted….there are things I resent and react against too.

The challenge becomes, can I embrace this tension of opposites? Can I hold enough space in my emotional mind that neither place is Utopia, and each place has a Shadow? Can I realize that Eden was an illusion, a projection, because in order to live in Eden, I would have to become something which I am not.

I don’t regret a moment of this crazy adventure either. It has all been worth it. Every member of our family discovered the mettle we are made of. We are all grateful for the abundance and love we have. We all know ourselves and one another much better now. I have finally made peace with who I truly am. No apologies or trying to be different. This is it. I am not going to change. Work with what I’ve got, and make the second half of this adventure as juicy and rich as possible.

More than anything, I have gratitude for the opportunity to try it all. My life has been rich with adventure and diversity.  I wouldn’t change a thing. And who knows, maybe after a year in the crazy USA, I’ll want to come back. And that’s ok too.

 

The Hammock

Last modified on 2013-10-05 22:38:24 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The Hammock

I’m lying in the hammock in the yard at our rental house, listening to birds, and insects, and also Martin and the kids move around inside. Its been ten months since we moved to Costa Rica from Utah, USA. Its been so interesting, so different from anything I could have predicted.

I *thought* after years of slaving away to get here, life would be ideal. I thought there would be a huge relief of having escaped the crazy life, and each day would be living in Eden…gardening, spending time with the kids, making art, making love.

The most surprising thing about this experience for me, has been the rekindling of connection with my inner world. I had no idea how disconnected I had become in the fast-paced mania that was my prior life.

This inner work has been sponsored by the new experience of a foreign land where the pace allows ample time for self reflection; but it is also coinciding with the developmental epoch when I am leaving my youth and entering the second half of my life here on earth. And I cannot underestimate the fact that I have been dealing with an extreme case of adrenal fatigue, exhaustion and thyroid issues which have consequently created a physiological whole-body depression.

But all this means I have spent much of the past ten months lounging in bed or the hammock staring at the sky. I lie here recalling all sorts of nostalgic memories….filled with grief of lost loved ones and my home country, sweet and happy events, pride for being brave and going for what I believed in, and making amends with myself for all the ways I’ve failed myself and the people I love.

For some, strange reason, and for the very first time in my life, I am not scheming and dreaming of what I am going to create next. I feel spent and don’t seem to have the energy to whip myself into an enthusiastic frenzy about all the possibilities. This place could be a blank canvas to create anything I desire. But somehow, all I want to do is lie in the hammock, listen to the rain, and pet our rescued kitten. Is this good, is this wrong? Of course, being a therapist, I immediately want to perform a self assessment for mental illness. And how long is this going to last? I sound depressed. God, am I depressed? Do I need medication?

From my cozy spot, above me I watch the breeze gently blow a spider hanging on its web. Its legs are curled to its body like a vampire corpse. Oh, I think, its dead, but upon closer inspection, I see a very alive spider quietly on her web to the side of the husk. What I first noticed was only the skin, an empty hull that had peeled away to release a shiny, new spider.

Somehow, a deep voice in me tells me to just lie back and surrender to this archetypal death. Allow my old self to dry up and peel away. Trust that my new, more shiny self is emerging. And that it is ok to be sad, to take time to remember, to take time to give thanks and recount all the events of my amazing life so far.

Martin and I spend a lot of time going back and forth about whether we should settle here long term, or go back to the life we know. Should we buy land and build a beautiful house here, get a goat, live a quiet life with time for kids and friends, or should we return to the hustle and bustle of the city life in the States, where there are job opportunities and family, better schools for the kids, and lots of friends to choose from? But then we flip around and do a 180…maybe this is just culture shock and we’re in the worst part of it??

My parents, his parents are pining for us as they age in Utah. And they miss their grandchildren terribly. The kids are yearning for the wonderful art school they attended in Utah. The school in Costa Rica has been disappointing and learning Spanish has been slower than we all hoped. The pueblo we live in is tiny. That comes with a lot of lovely, small-town friendliness and intimacy. A slow pace, a feeling of safety and nature abounds. But there is also the rural, conservative mindset and an insidious feeling we will never *really* belong. The extranjero population here have been more than welcoming. They are a wonderful, independent bunch of people, with lots in common with us and a genuine interest in how we fit into their community. This has definitely been the highlight of our experience here. Back and forth, back and forth, pros and cons, more pros and cons.

I realized last night that all this missing and needing to go back is really about missing something that was but is no more. Life in my old country has changed. My grandmother who kept our family together has died, my mother and father divorced and remarried. My brother is too busy and my sister lived in California. My friends have moved away, or have children and busy lives. And my country has changed, at least for me. I do not experience it as the beautiful place it was when I was a child. There are Walmarts and McDonalds on every corner. The entire place smells like plastic and car exhaust. It is polluted and security cameras are everywhere you look. Everyone is working their asses off, kids in daycare. What was wild and beautiful is now a corporate wasteland. I remind myself we are so blessed to have the opportunity to *choose* to be here. I am blessed.

I lie back in my hammock and retrieve a sweet memory from when I was 5 years old. My parents had just built a house in West Jordan, Utah. Its the first day, and the sun is about to set. I have my brand-new rainbow Huffy with a unicorn on the banana seat. I ride around and around the cul-de-sac circle alone in the setting summer sun. I can recall my wispy, blonde hair blowing. I feel my bare feet on the bumpy pedals and the training wheels whirring and touching down when I wobble. There’s a particular smell of dry weeds in the field across the street. And now I smell my mother’s cooking, cabbage and corned beef. A neighbor boy in a white t-shirt with dark blue stripes rides up to me on his bike. “Hi, I’m Travis. Are you new?” My mom opens the front door and calls me in for dinner. I just drop my bike there in the middle of the road and run inside.

This body, mind and soul all came together to make this person that is me. I think, this amazing, strong body of package of mine has taken me on so many adventures. And more are definitely to come. But for now, I will rest this body, and swing here in the hammock, at this crossroads between what once was and what is about to become.

Sunny~Slide

Jumping With My Eyes Open

Last modified on 2013-09-12 23:31:05 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

My family and I had been living abroad for six months in Central America. It felt impermanent, like an extended vacation, because we still had a home and pets in the USA. Life was pressing us to make a decision, should we stay or should we go? There have been very few times in my life when I allow myself to be ambivalent about big life decisions. Usually, I create a synthesized happiness and rationale for whatever decision I make. I demonize what I am leaving and glorify the new. But this time, I have been able to stay in a liminal space of seeing the pros and cons of both lifestyles, and have felt perpetually indecisive.

And this comes in a time of my life when I’m doing  a major life-cycle readjustment. I have been grieving the loss of my youth and trying to embrace entering the age of Mother and Crone. There has been an interesting assessment going on….what beauty customs should I keep, which ones have had their time and now to let them go? Who am I without youth and the traditional beauty that comes with youth? What is my role in the world? What is success? What have I accomplished and what is left to do?

In this transition and self reflection, my husband and I re-examined our past history too. We are blessed to have a wonderful relationship that has weathered many challenges, but more often, we have enjoyed extended periods of time when we thrive together. I have been married to Marty for 17 years, and together for 23.

We have moved 11 times in 20 years. That’s an average of every 2 years! We have left Salt Lake City, Utah, our birthplace, for three of those moves. I guess we have feel comfortable in Utah, but very underwhelmed with its potential for us. We have been wandering gypsies trying to find a home in all sorts of different places. We have adapted to the contrast of the center of Los Angeles, from the little ghetto of Denver (5 Points), to the rural tranquility of Mount Shasta. And now adapting to the jungles of Costa Rica.

I guess I have been seeking home. I find it deeply archetypal that in psychic readings I have had done for me, I am usually told most of my previous incarnations have been on alien planets. I guess that’s why I wander, to find something familiar. But if I am an alien, nothing is familiar in this world. Whether their insights are ‘real’ or not, doesn’t matter. The symbol deeply resonates with me. I feel as if I am constantly searching for something I can’t quite articulate.

Recently, we went back to the States to tie up loose ends. We made our decision permanent to leave Utah and move to the jungle. Utah, the place we grew up in, has been the place we have returned to countless times. Every time we have fled for greener pastures, some combinations of circumstances would eventually suck us back. We lost our jobs, we had twins, someone in the family was dying, our parents needed us.

And this time, in Utah I was welcomed by the gorgeous house we were about to put on the market. When we lived in it, the house seemed humble compared to the other homes of our friends and family members. But this time….Wow! Granite countertops and toilets that I can flush my toilet paper down! Crown moldings, hot water! A CLOTHES DRYER! Everything seemed luxurious. Going to Target was actually a sublime experience, everything so shiny and readily available. My mind was swimming with incredible breadth of options of STUFF! And of course, I love my friends and family. That is the real staying power of Utah for me. The first weekend, they threw a birthday party for me, and I was reminded how incredibly beautiful the souls are we left behind.

But my enthusiasm quickly faded. Utah, and maybe all the USA, feels like an amusement park to me. The first hour is super fun and exciting, but then my back hurts and I get a belly ache from the cotton candy and overstimulation. In Utah, the amusement park theme is Mega-Corporations and Mega Military! I get in a little cart that takes me along the well-worn tracks up and down. There are a few little thrills, but you always know where you’ll end up. Everything feels over discovered and used up. I feel there is a hopelessness and entropy of a dying empire. Everyone knows it, but soothes themselves with IMAX movies and iPhone5’s.

During our stay, I was overwhelmed by the complexity and stress in the life I had there. Perhaps because my armor had softened having been in such a tranquil place for the past six months. I felt that all my protection was gone. Upon arrival in Atlanta, CNN was blaring news about the latest kidnappings and the government recording everyone’s phone calls. I felt overwhelmed by it all. It felt harsh. The smiles I am greeted by when I go on my morning walks in Costa Rica, were replaced with drawn, agitated expressions. Suddenly what was familiar to me seemed foreign and strange. For the first two weeks, I smiled and greeted everyone I could in an effort to preserve the good feelings I had. But after a month, I was back to scowling like everyone around me.

My mother was having surgery, my father-in-law was grappling with life threatening health issues, my dad’s brother’s death. We were frantically moving out, going through every slip of paper and object we had ever owned and pairing it down to a tiny storage unit. Selling cars and camp trailers, giving away half of everything, painting walls and cleaning out raingutters. Getting our money, or lack of it, in order.

A poignant moment that stands out for me was visiting my dad at his machine shop with a couple of mattresses that didn’t fit in the storage unit. I remember my father’s sad face. I haven’t seen him cry except a few times. He hugged our son, tears in his eyes, and a stoic smile. I can’t get the image out of my mind, without words about our departure for fear of giving me a guilt trip, his eyes said it all. I felt bad for taking the grandkids away from him and my mom. If I were a ‘good girl’ I would stay home like I am supposed to.

But the biggest obstacle is nothing external, it is me. Me, with the goddamned fear that seems find me and settle into my psyche. I find it so strange I live such an adventurous life given how risk averse I am. I don’t like breaking rules or getting into trouble. I do it because I have such a deep sense of wanting to have an ultimate life experience that the desire overrides my fear. If life was a parachute jump, I have mostly just closed my eyes and leapt out of the plane. But in doing that, I have missed most of the scenery.

The stress of being in the States for those few weeks quickly caught up with me. About a month in, I started having severe stomach pain. And, out of control anxiety….so bad I would wake up in the middle of the night out of a deep sleep, crying in a full blown panic attack. I would cry out, “I’m dying!” gasping for air. Marty would comfort me, rubbing my back, “Deep, belly breaths, babe. Deep belly breaths.” I kept laying out the Handl Tarot, and 12 times it brought the Death card.

One fitful night of sleep brought a nightmare, in the dream, Marty came in to the bedroom and announced I was too old for him, I was too sick. He said, “I need new blood.” As is often the case in my nightmares, the interactions were overdramatic and overemotional as if they’re taking place in a Mexican soap opera. Except they are gravely horrific for me when they are occurring. I clutched at him, hysterical and he looked away with a blank stare. I woke up in a cold sweat. “I’ve got to go to a doctor and find out what is wrong.”

I’m not sure how it happened, but the samsara caught me and before I knew it, I was getting blood tests, stool samples and an ultrasound. I ended up in that goddamned little cart on the tracks. The ride was called “WORST CASE SCENARIO! The American Health System”. Luckily nothing was found other than a flora imbalance in my gut. And, funny enough, all symptoms disappeared once I got back to the jungle. I am so deeply grateful what I was experiencing wasn’t life threatening. But it was a wake up call to embrace what really matters and leave the rest behind. My family, my friends, nature, being alive and going for it are what persists.

I learned so much about myself the past two months. I learned that I create my reality, absolutely yes, but there is an undeniable influence from the consensual reality. Each place has a shadow. Our task is to learn the shadow of the place we choose to live, and if the pros outweigh the cons to stay. Nowhere is perfect.Nowhere is utopia. A friend once told me to find the place I can most be myself, and that is most natural to my nature. I’m still trying to figure out if the location I am in is that place to unfurl fully. I’m not sure yet. I may need to go searching again, and that is OK.

I also learned I am a wanderer by nature. Its OK that I move often. Its OK that I change my mind. I have been given an incredible life where I have had opportunities to explore a lot. If that is who I am, then so be it. I embrace that, I embrace uncertainty and indecision and I can enjoy the liminal space in between. Because really, we never totally KNOW everything, so why not surrender to the mystery? I want to ask this question each day… “How can I feel the most alive in this moment?”

I’ve been listening to Louise Hay and Mona Lisa Schultz’ audio book “You Can Heal Your Life” and Wayne Dyer’s “Wishes Fulfilled”. Powerful medicine. I can feel my  body has been coping with the transition by forcing me to slow down, but circumstances were requiring me to forge ahead….but only for a short period. So, when I am in that situation, shift my perspective to be calm in the eye of the storm.

I am back to deep mediation and affirmation practice.

The trip had been beyond-the-beyond in terms of stress and emotional drama. I looked forward to getting back to my mountain and my jungle. Now that I am here, I am looking out of my little office window and the afternoon rains are starting up. A flock of parakeets just flew overhead and I hear the laughing voices of my children in the living room downstairs. My body feels good and I feel centered. I even have enough energy and creative libido to write. This feels good to me.

Now, in reflection, I see how the transition, from an old, comfortable life to a new, foreign one, has been a deeply archetypal one for me. The Tarot was right, there has been a Death. It has been a death in which a large part of my old Self died and a new Self is in the process of emerging. My old ways of being in the world were no longer serving me. Even though they were outdated, I held onto them because it was all I knew. Like an overdue baby, I was quickly outgrowing what was familiar. The longer I stayed being a big baby, the more panicked I felt. I feel the anxiety was springing from a deep sense of loss and grief without knowing what the new and exciting was waiting around the corner. And I still don’t know.

I am learning to jump out of the plane and keep my eyes open.

 

Clarity Through Contrast

Last modified on 2013-06-25 15:41:32 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

My family and I have been traveling between our old life and new. I feel as if I am in the eye of the storm, watching the world spin around me and observing which aspects of me persist. The contrast between these two worlds seems extreme. Its interesting observe each with fresh eyes as I compare and contrast these two cultures against each other. This epoch in my life seems to be one of observation and consideration.

I keep circling back to the idea that I’m over winning approval, external success and hesitation fueled by fear. Looking forward to the second half of my life, I’m asking questions like, “What songs remain that I need to sing?” Each lifetime provides specific opportunities, talents, and limitations. Our lives have a special flavor that’s unique in each incarnation. I’ve spent the first half of my life figuring out what my flavor is. What are my gifts and strengths? I have also spent it overcoming crushing insecurity and self doubt. I’ve been blessed with an incredibly rich and varied life. When reflecting on the past four decades, its as if I have been several people, each with completely different existences. There have been so many times that, out of desperation to seek the ultimate life experience, I have swallowed fear and leapt into the unknown. I have lost and regained fortunes, challenged friendships and relationships, and had times wasn’t sure if I was going to come back from the brink with my crazy endeavors. I have lived in everything from palaces to tents. I have traveled all over the world. I have had at least five different careers. But all of it has deepened my sense of who I am and what I stand for. All of the experiences have washed away the “What if’s?” and clarified the incredible nostalgia of being alive. I have realized that in our deepest essence we are much more than social or financial power, intellect, fame or success. At our core, each of us is a being of love.

So the question comes forth (once we get past survival mode), if life isn’t about financial success, or power or prestige, what is it? It is, when all is said and done, the mark we leave on this world, is how we make others feel. Did we leave it better than before we came?  It seems the most obvious one that remains, is the question, given the course that remains, how do I maximize my service to the world? Where do I find the most peace, harmony and bliss? How do I show up and make each person I encounter feel enriched by the interaction?

Going back to the States has been calling to us for a few reasons. My husband’s father has had a few health scares. At over 80 years old, he is getting increasingly frail. And my parents desperately want their grandchildren near. We also have many friends and a house that’s close to everything, great neighbors, and seems absolutely luxurious compared to Costa Rica’s quaint and minimal architecture. I cant tell you how nice it is to have a dishwasher and food disposal, hot showers, an electric clothes dryer. Most of all, I love the ability to flush toilet paper rather than the disgusting necessity (due to poor plumbing) of throwing used toilet paper into a garbage can next to the toilet. I can get used to a lot of things, but I dont think I’ll ever be ok with that one.

I feel very split, wavering between these two worlds and pondering each. Today (and this changes daily) I might choose to live between both worlds and enjoy the diversity in each. But choices like this demand life energy and commitment. In addition, I’m if running two households thousands of miles apart is the best use of my life energy? Sometimes letting go, rather than holding on is the answer. My little Cancerian heart tends to cling to everything with crab-claw tenacity, whether it best serves me or not. And I wonder if we are stretched between these two worlds, does it limit us from being available to explore new ones?

Life in our jungle home is incredibly tranquil and serene. Long days stretch out before me, where I have time to reflect and connect. There is time for creativity and meditation. I have had several days where I have a stretch of unstructured time and I think, hmmm…what do I want to do right now? This is an incredibly rare luxury I haven’t experienced for years. But that gift also comes with a caveat. This also allows ample time for neurotic thoughts to percolate up from the depths of my psyche. I entertain myself by doing lunatic acrobatics within my emotional landscape when I don’t have enough intellectual stimulation to sink my teeth into. The weather is ideal, we have a beautiful community and the Tico culture has many aspects I admire…a focus on family connection and playfulness.

I love seeing my therapy clients and it is a strong calling that is a win-win, it enriches my life and others. My intention is to create something with my therapy practice where I both expand locally helping people in my community, while also creating psychology retreats and local therapy clinics. However, the culture and pace is so slow and nonlinear, I’m not certain quite how to pull it off in a way that feels sustainable and enduring. There has been a steep learning curve with Spanish and culture shock, that I cant quite see around the corner as to how I will create this vision.

In Costa Rica there has been a 2% inflation increase this year, as the economy tries to keep in step with the States. This has driven the price up of food and gas. Labor is still extremely cheap. We have a nanny and maid who we pay $3 an hour, but we walk to the feria and hitch hike to save on gas. Food is more expensive than the States. And gas is as well, but labor is cheap. But then these low labor prices, the Ticos are really stressed. Now in the States, you might see rioting or civil unrest, because we are a culture that prizes individualism and materialism. But the Ticos have a strong cultural narrative of cooperation and learning to live without. This tempers the financial stress. However, we are hearing stories of petty theft being on the rise, drug money and other unsavory activities that make the country seems in flux, more unstable and less palatable.

But then the States has its own set of drawbacks. American life feels more polluted, more stressful, less friendly, and in a different way, less stable. News coming into Costa RIca about the States makes it look like a crazy circus. I feel a deep grief about how my country has changed completely from my childhood. When I am in the States, I look around and see the neuroticism in every face I encounter. Americans are not smiling and playful, but feel worn and tense. People are fat, divorced, working more hours for less money, not having time to spend with their kids. The entire system feels like an amusement park ride. You get in your little cart and drive on the well-worn tracks of predictability. You give your life to a car and mortgage payment. You put your kids in day care for their first years, and hope you can spend time with them that summer between high school and college. You go to your cubicle for 10 hours a day and pray that someday, you can retire with medical insurance and a little bit of savings so you can nurse the cancer you got from years of stress, whiffing gas fumes while you sat on traffic, and fast food. And all this is perpetuated by the myth of the American Dream. Commercial television like MTV Cribs perpetuate the myth that anyone can make it, so no one really looks at the dead-end path clearly because they’re under the hypnosis of mass media. It appears that many of us keep hoping the good old days will come back and perpetuate the denial about how much things have changed.

And I am also very much aware that this may all be a rationalization. America is still pretty safe and there are pockets of nature and beauty.

On the surface, with all the shiny cars, smooth roads and colorful, plastic doo-dads, the States have a seductive familiarity for me. As I write and reflect, it seems that time and reflection will clarify which path to choose. I can’t help but wonder how my family’s and my life will turn out going in either direction, or perhaps a new one we havent even discovered yet. For this luxurious moment, I will savor observation and consideration.

Path Back to Wholeness

Last modified on 2013-05-06 15:43:17 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

What a gift! Today, I am full of gratitude!

After a week of anxiety, I realized I was digging myself deeper into that hole where my mind plays tricks and anxiety reigns. I decided to stop isolating and step out of my own monkey-mind and get a bigger view. I called my new friend, Nonie the next morning. She informed me that it was the day for the New Moon Women’s Gathering. Wonderful, just the medicine I need!

In the early morning, I ventured out first to yoga instructed by Meghan. As luck would have it, I was the only person who came. I got a one-on-one session that was incredibly healing. We had a beautiful, long talk after a beautiful practice. I ventured to offer some of what I have been dealing with. These little risks of opening up to people are challenging for me. This pattern of being the healer to everyone else, but never allowing anyone to heal me is an old wound. Limping about and acting sick or victimized was never part of our family’s acceptable behavior. The expectation was, “When you fall down, you buck up. Get yourself up, brush yourself off and quit boobing about it.”

I have recently realized how conveniently I have carried this into my psychotherapy practice. As a therapist, I have trained myself to focus on my clients’ problems and not my own. Self disclosure is forbidden. This is appropriate in the therapeutic setting, but I have let this bleed over into my personal life. In the past, I have withheld what was really going on inside me from everyone except a few, very close confidants. I recognize that I need to change this pattern in order to keep my life energetically sustainable. I encourage all my clients to reveal themselves. I say, “Be vulnerable. When you are vulnerable people will be able to love you more. Relationships become more intimate when we do this in a safe and emotionally wise way.” Now, I have decided to change this pattern of emotionally withholding. And to my relief, when I took that little step of opening up, Meghan was wonderfully empathic.

Later in the day, I went to the Women’s Gathering. They did a session of authentic movement which Nonie led. This is a technique where the “Mover” moves around with her eyes closed in any way she feels for ten minutes, and a “Witnesser” watches the movements. After the ten minutes, you gather and process the movement– what feelings came up, what the Witnesser saw, etc. At first, I expected I was going to be shy, intellectually disconnected, and likely to jockey to play the role of the therapist, and not the mover (too vulnerable!). I was quite please and surprised with myself when I had completely let go of my inhibitions. I squatted on the ground, hissed, undulated and rolled around with abandon! I felt like a lioness, powerful and serpentine. It was interesting because earlier in the day, during meditation, out of the Goddess Tarot deck I drew Sehkmet. I was relieved once again, as I was earlier in the day, that Nonie held space for me graciously.

Part of my awakening has been that I really need to cure myself of these nagging endocrine issues once and for all. I am so tired of gaining and losing weight and feeling like a victim when I eat 900 calories a day, exercise for 2 hours and still gain weight. So, the next day, which was today, I went to a new alternative healer, John Blue. He is an incredible acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.

What a trip! I was expecting an old wizard guy with an accent like Yoda. But I was quite surprised to see a young, straight-looking Gringo kid beckon me into his clinic. His office was crowded with people chatting and laughing. Not at all the energy you would find in a traditional physician’s office! And John exudes an energy of joy and ease. He is sharp as a tack and quick. But when I spoke about how I was feeling, I felt like he stopped the world to deeply listen to me. He immediately sensed what I needed, and stuck several needles all over my body. There we were 5 or 6 people, all different ages and ailments, sprawled out with needles all over us, and laughing and chatting like we were at a dinner party. John recognized issues I’ve had from past surgeries that I was very shocked and interested to learn. He said the c-section, and subsequent corrective surgical traumas I had with the twins, 11 years ago, has cut my Qi off from its ability to travel up and down my body. The organs and body all needs to communicate freely and this blockage was causing most of my issues.  He assured me we can get feeling back in that area (its been numb for years!) and get the Qi flowing again.

 

I am hopeful and curious about these new treatments. It feels good to feel like can take steps to make myself feel better. And these actions are self sustaining and positive.  I am committed to practicing daily Qi Gong, yoga or gratitude meditation as well as pursuing these alternative medicine. I am also committed to being more open and sharing with my friends, particularly women. I love to support and nurture, but I also love feeling deeply seen and understood. It seems, as social animals, we must find and develop these human connections in order to live a rich and happy life. I am deeply grateful for the broader vista these experiences have offered me. I pray and give thanks that they continue.

 

 

 

Wild Woman

Last modified on 2013-04-09 02:14:40 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Each night, I wake up with a dark feeling of dread and fear. My mind turns around and around and inside out. I worry about my health, my family’s safety, finances, my career, my parent’s health, you name it. I am very surprised by this latest turn of events. I can’t get enough distance to feel if this is a strange healing crisis of my mind, affected by the huge shifts in toxic load and medications, or a valid external reason for the tossing and turning.  I realize this is “just another one of my existentialist crises” and in time, it will pass. But part of me wants something new- a new way of surrender or knowing that I have never experienced before.

I can’t figure out why on earth I’m not happy, here living in paradise. I read comments on Facebook from friends deeply coveting my freewheeling and courageous life.  But inside I am not feeling brave or free. I feel afraid and lonely. I have a lot of guilt about this. I feel like a little spoiled baby crying that my life isn’t perfect when so many people are suffering.

And I have read the books- tomes on positivity, creating your reality and quantum physics. I know I need more yoga, meditation and prayer. And yet, somehow I resist it, resist feeling better. I often watch my therapy clients do this resistance game trying to hold onto sadness and grief and don’t seem to want to feel better and I’m always perplexed by it in others, but watch in in myself.

I get annoyed with the Pollyanna’s, spouting sunshine and rainbows, positivity and prayer to resolve our darkest shadows. It doesn’t seem real, nor sustainable. And it definitely doesn’t feel like it is for me.

I don’t want to go back to the States, and I’m not sure I want to stay here. Nothing feels like home to me. I feel like an outsider, even to myself. This feels like a major identity crisis, perhaps fueled by my developmental stage, or perhaps some brain chemistry imbalance. Being a therapist makes me question everything. I’m not sure if it helps that I know so much about the workings of the psyche. Sometimes I wonder if I know only enough to make myself even more neurotic. For example, I know if I tweak my herbal regimen, or the prescription I have (but do not use) for bio-identical hormones, I might be able to transform into a completely new personality. I know that everything is projection of our internal world. I know we play little games with ourselves to make us feel important or needed and sane. So sadly, I can’t escape into these distractions because I know they are only mind games. And then, if reality is solipsistic then why in the hell am I creating this one? Out of bad habit? This creating your own reality stuff really leaves me feeling ultimately accountable and like a spiritual failure for my inability to master it.

The thing is, we came to Costa Rica for peace of mind. We’ve been here for three months. Utah was feeling less and less like home. I felt a strong panic to escape what I was feeling was an external oppression. The toxins in the environment, corporate giants tainting our food, the hedonistic treadmill, and the most terrifying…that horrible feeling of aging in a youth oriented society. I watched in horror as my youth slipped through my fingers and I felt increasingly invisible against the prized blonde, twenty somethings around me. As a child I wasn’t particularly striking, but as I got older, I was considered beautiful. I was conditioned to attach a lot of power to being pretty.

Being a woman in the USA is a difficult road. You either fight like hell to hold onto some semblance of youth and beauty, or you give up completely. And all of the fear around aging is really pointing to something deeper…it points to my fear of death, of irrelevance, or obliteration from this beautiful world I love so much.

Costa Rica seemed like a paradise, an escape into nature, affirmation of wilderness, freedom and graceful aging.

But now, I am questioning how much of that was real. Because the same dread had been dogging my dreams here too. Wherever I go, here I am.

However, the specifics of my anxiety are quite different. In our little pueblo, there is increasing theft arising of Ticos robbing Gringos, no violence as of yet. There is no law enforcement either, so it feels like the wild west. A couple we know were out for the evening and someone came and drugged their German Shepherd and robbed them. It took three calls to the police 40 minute drive away to come up the mountain. I found this very distressing. In the States, everyone in our neighborhood had the same stuff thieves covet. There was safety in numbers. But here, Gringos stick out like sore thumbs. I wonder if the locals see us and assume we’re rich (and we are by their standards). Also, Latin America doesn’t seem to have to same morality around petty crime that we have. There’s an attitude to take it if you can get away with it. There is no morality or lack of self dignity associated with stealing. When I express my concern, the other Gringos just shrug. They say at least its not violent, watch your stuff. There’s a peace here with that reality and I can’t quite get my mind around it yet.

Now we discover the shadow of this place. And it feels foreign to me. I think maybe the old saying might be right, its better the devil you know.

And there is a kind of guilt I carry because I do have more “stuff” than my neighbors. We are not rich by our standards, but to them we are kings. We drive a junker- a 1992 Isuzu Trooper with 200,000 miles on it, but for all of our neighbors who walk everywhere, it is extravagant. And I resent that I feel guilty for taking a step down in my material life to move here. But that wealth disparity- seemingly nothing in our spectrum is a gulf here. And I am not willing to live in a concrete shack with no computer, phone or car to make myself not stand out.

When we see the indigenous people walking around in their traditional dress and their stoic faces, I wonder how they see me. I must seem like a glitzy, spoiled brat to them. I wonder if they know how much I have seen of the world. I wonder how they know nature and life in ways I cannot even imagine.

In the States, I felt life was masculine-dominated and the feminine was negated. There is a strong ethos of Manifest Destiny….Almost like an announcement….”Man has conquered Nature!”

My daily life was stressful, going from one little metal or concrete box to another driving along in silence on smooth, concrete roads. I often felt like like was all cut-out predictability. The expectation is to work in your cubicle, sit in traffic smelling the fumes spewing out of your little tin can (which you still owe thousands of dollars for), eat plastic shit-food, watch commercial TV, buy plastic shit, sleep (less and less so you can work more and more). Life was leading my little family on well-worn tracks, as we sat in a cart on a Disneyland ride. Nature was something to visit, on weekends. Life felt like samsara and it distressed me to feel to cut off from the natural rhythms of the earth. I was disheartened to be working for a society I didn’t even believe in.

But here, in this green rainforest, I am coming to grips with the opposite. The jungle feels wildly feminine and unruly. Anything not tended and kept gets eaten by Pachamama. She crawls and slithers with bugs and snakes and life. Sometimes at night, I can almost feel her dank breath heaving against the light of the moon. Coyotes serenade her magnitude and power. Moist and dank, dark and unknown. She terrifies me because I am terrified of the Her that is within me.I have never made peace with this wild woman part of myself- I feel foreign to myself.

This wild nature and unruly jungle might sound romantic to you, particularly if you are sitting in a cubicle somewhere in the safety of an office, but this dark feminine terrifies me. I feel if I don’t keep my distance, I’ll be colonized by her. I’ll grow into an old witch, gnarled and ugly- moss growing in my hair and completely insane. Or worse, she will eat me alive, obliterate me. She is not malevolent, but rather there is a law of the jungle, and it is powerful. I can empathize with the Conquistadors wanting to machete her back into submission.

All of this fear of the unkept, wild woman feels like an ornate projection of my fear of aging. The Virgin is innocent and naive. What does it mean to step into Wild Woman, Mother and Crone? Can I do this either in a masculine world which negates it, or a world where the dark power terrifies me?

So, here I am..not feeling at home in either world. And again, an outsider. But I am now realizing I am only an outsider to myself. No one besides me has alienated or caste me out.

How do I even begin to know this wild woman? Somehow I don’t think she’s a “Hi, how ya doin’” kinda gal.

Memories

Last modified on 2013-03-25 16:23:40 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I’ve been a little homesick lately. But not for home as it is now…more the home I grew up in. Memories are coming up I’ve long forgotten. I guess its also because we’ve been watching movies that were made in the 80’s. Its that State Dependent Learning again- reminding me of the time in my life when I first saw them. I’m remembering things I haven’t thought of for 20 years…details.

 

Childhood memories of going camping in Southern Utah’s Lake Powell for instance. Details of my cousin’s who had a Grandma Barlow. She on the house boat when it became unanchored and floated away, the line of coolers and the campfire. My Uncle Tim’s kids swimming, even my cousin Dale’s voice when she was five. It was deep for such a little girl. A memory of telling ghost stories. The time my mom scared my cousin with that old lady mask at the campfire. My Junior Prom night with a boyfriend and my mother carefully helping pin in my corsage. The smell of the corsage–moist on my white dress, smelling of flowers and preservative, the rigid feeling of the pin and the heaviness of a wilting flower. Our family trip to Germany when I was 12, driving in the rental car on the windy roads. My little brother Sean and me laughing in the back seat.

 

The other night, I stayed home with my 11 year-old daughter while Marty took the boys to a friend’s house for dinner. We laid in bed and looked at a map of the world. I showed her everywhere I have been, pointing carefully, naming the places. I showed her everywhere she has been. The world looked small. There was this intimacy between us I have never felt with her before. Because there has been time together here, and much less stress. I am not distracted. My mind feels lucid and clear.

I have, for the first time, deeply connected to her inner world. I tickled her back a she fell asleep and I remembered my Gramma doing the same for me- holding me close, the smell of garlic on her sleeping breath. I was appreciating how Gramma was such an advocate for the innocent and helpless….animals, children, plants. She had deep empathy for others’ experience. She took the time to really listen, to get to know me in a way that made me feel seen and understood. I realized that I was doing that for the first time with my daughter. And I realized that moving here created that space. I also realized that taking her away from my parents prevented that kind of space and time for them and her to connect the way Gramma and I did. That made me sad.

 

Yesterday, we heard from our friend that the Tico who has been coming to the house had stolen tools from another Gringo. We asked around, and a neighbor said it was actually his brother who had stolen the tools. It was a special incident where another Gringo didn’t pay him and he had an ax to grind. But then she told us the family down the street (Who are a Gringo and Tico mixed couple) were burgled and had a ton of stuff stolen. She said everyone knew who did it. Its the guy with the drug problem in the next pueblo down from us. Its weird here because there seems to be one or two guys here who steal from everyone and have a drug problem, but no one confronts them, and the police don’t help either. Its like the Wild West.  I don’t know what the truth is, but it made me feel insecure about being here, and getting our stuff stolen too.

There’s a different kind of vigilance like that here. But then I remembered when my car door was smashed in the States last year and my wallet stolen. The police did come, they were very nice, and nodded in disgust about the thieves. But they did absolutely nothing to help me get my stuff back. The people even used my ID and credit cards at stores and I asked why they couldn’t us security camera tapes to identify them (why are they there then?), and they just shrugged.  There’s a feeling at home to “Let the authorities take care of it”,  and they write their little report, but they don’t really help get your anything back, or bring justice. And here, everyone keeps assuring us, there’s almost no violent crime. But I don’t know, I guess its that I feel like a newcomer. I get tired of constantly being in learning mode. And not really knowing where the dangers are, or even if there are any.

After a night of tossing and turning, thinking about how much I miss my family, miss the familiar, worrying about if this place is stimulating enough for the kids, where to buy land and build a home…I woke up to the myriad of exotic bird calls and a gorgeous sunrise and knowing I have the whole day to spend in nature, with my little family. It all seems happy and good now.

Stranger In a Strange Land

Last modified on 2013-03-23 15:31:10 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

 

Most of my days are laughing, playing and taking in this wonderful land and genuinely enjoying learning a new language and a new culture. The mornings begin at 5am. Dawn creeps in and makes big, puffy, pink clouds and turns up the vibrancy on the green mountains. The bird songs are rich and varied- warbles and coos, chirps, rooster crows and caws. The smell of dark coffee fills the air with that pungent delicious scent of endless possibilities of a new day. I get up, get dressed in exercise gear and sip coffee as I think about my day. I strap on my iPhone and either go trail running, or do TRX on my deck watching the sunrise, or if I’m especially motivated, both. I feel more and more at home as I greet my new friends along the way, and pass the boys gathering steel cans of milk with their brown-spotted bulldog. My children, along with their new Tico friends, walk to school in their crisp white shirts, dark blue pants and little, black shoes. There’s an earnestness on their faces- a desire to make their families proud and to work diligently. It all feels very Normal Rockwell- home, hearth and nature. Simplicity.

Days sprawl out with therapy clients here and there, some time to make art, playing with my kids and our new baby ducklings, and naps. The ducklings are adorable. They have been living in a basket in the kids’ room while we wait for Roilon, the handyman to build them a coop. If we left them outside, they would surely be snatched up by the coyotes we hear yelping and howling each night. The ducklings now come when you call them.

 

I haven’t felt the need yet to travel around the country, or join the women’s group, or teach art classes and workshops because I am really enjoying the novel tranquility and slow pace of my life right now. I am being very conscious not to fill my time up with a big list of projects because then I’ll just recreate the crazy, rat-race, merry-go-round that I just worked so hard to jump off.

 

We did host a life drawing class last week. Our friend was the model and we drew outside near the rocks and the river. It was wonderful to draw outside, chat with friends and get in touch with a talent that I haven’t used in a while.

 

Along with all this lovely nature and simplicity, I find the interior monkey chatter that was a mere din in my life in the States, has now become a very disruptive raucous in my mind. I wonder sometimes if I feel guilty that life is so good for me right now. That I must find suffering in it somehow to justify my incredible luck at being here.  This sudden awareness of my own neurotic habits, insecurities and oddities, offer an incredible and unique opportunity to notice what’s percolating up from the shadows where it’s usually conveniently hidden. It is a part of my internal landscape that I rarely get to see, and I almost always love opportunities for self-reflection and growth.

 

One of these feelings of insecurity is the proverbial “Culture Shock”.

 

It came to a head two days ago on my way walking to yoga. On my way, I fell on the dirt road and skinned both my knees badly. It seemed to have triggered some state-dependant memory of having fallen down as a child and skinning my knees. I felt helpless, alone, a stranger in a strange land. I just sat on a rock by the side of the road and cried my eyes out, blood running down both shins, like a little girl. I felt frustrated at adjusting to this new country, how challenging it seems to be to get the most basic things done. I often feel like Sisyphus- pushing a rock up the hill, almost to the top, just to have it roll down again. Changing a light fixture, getting the car fixed, getting the clothing washed without a washing machine– all these little tasks are big hurdles here for some reason. Hours of my day are suddenly dedicated to getting the most basic necessities accomplished. I dried my eyes, rolled down my torn yoga pants, stood up, brushed myself off, and hobbled my way back home.

The feeling of being an outsider is exacerbated by the fact that we’re also living in a rural farm community which is also very Catholic. People are friendly and smiling, but seem to have a little distance from these new gringos that have showed up. We must seem strange to them- boisterous, dressed in weird clothes, armed with cel phones. Of course, we have many gringo friends, and some liberal, hip Tico friends too. I would like to have more Tico friends and trust these connections will build in time. Especially once I learn Spanish. Every week, we either host or attend parties and get togethers, which helps immensely. Marty isn’t feeling the culture shock at all. Probably because he speaks fluent Spanish and spent many childhood vacations all over Latin America.

 

I have been reflecting on growing up as a Non-Mormon (as we are called) in Utah. This landscape of my childhood already familiarized me with being an outsider. Marty and I moved to Mount Shasta to find our tribe, and again, we were the outsiders. We were neither loggers nor puritanical hippies. We moved to South Pasadena to take care of Marty’s dying grandmother, and were surrounded by elderly, wealthy Republicans- being poor artists, we felt odd there. We moved to Five Points in Denver, and were the only white people in our neighborhood. Even when I went to school at Pacifica Graduate Institute, which teaches every philosophy my heart holds dear, I was more familiar sitting in the back of the classroom, and finding all the ways I didn’t fit in.

I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere other than the annual, one week trek to the Holy Land of Black Rock City. This is where the outsiders and orphans came to belong. Like the King Missile song, “I want to be like all the different people, who are different…like me.”

 

Perhaps it is my dharma to be the outsider, perhaps it is familiar and so I choose it. There have been many times in my life when I lived in Utah; I would go running on Sunday mornings and see  groups of Mormon families strolling to church. I felt jealousy well up inside me, and wondered what it would be like to feel like if I had it all figured out. How would it feel to have everyone around in my social circle affirm that little vantage point of reality? But, I’ve never been able to give myself to group-think…being too inquisitive, and always looking in from the window outside like a lonely orphan.

As they say, Wherever You Go, There You Are

Trust not Try

Last modified on 2013-03-14 22:58:58 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

“Baby, your mantra is ‘Trust not Try’”. He’s looking at me gently.

Damn, he’s got this down. The tiniest titch of anger wells up, but I know I’m only envious of the way he knows how to self-soothe and enjoy the process. I sip my tea and stare out the window at the sunrise gaining momentum. I want answers…where are we going to settle? We need a washer, we need furniture, and tools! Should we ship everything we have from the States, or buy it all here? What is our five year plan?!

Deep breath.

 

Marty is comfortable anywhere. He knows how to make any place home. He has no angst, no desire for material comforts, no need to hurry up and figure it all out. He knows how to be happy. All he desires is alone time, time to make art. His ornate mind and agile hands give him endless hours of entertainment. He Is a wonderful accomplice in my life. We balance one another in such perfect and opposing harmony.

I remind myself, “Sunny, here you are, sitting in paradise. This is what you have worked your ass off for the last 15 years. This is what you wanted, prayed for and dreamed of.”

I guess I thought once I got here, it was going to be easy. There was such a huge push to get us here, that I didn’t even consider there might be more effort after the fact. And although its a pleasurable feeling, I sense my mind is turning off. The monkey chatter express has come to its destination. Time to climb out of the vessel of my own crazy-train psyche, stretch my legs and unwind. I need to take a rest, then look at where I am and take it all in. No decisions should be made yet.

This is an idyllic paradise. Each day is luscious- a long, relaxed unfolding of cool morning trail runs, bird calls on the deck during yoga, time at the river playing with the kids. There are afternoons with coffee and friends on the patio, and random meet-ups with friends old and new. Once a week is feria to get our organic goods for the week and see friends. I am just discovering there is a women’s group, an art class, and daily yoga at a nearby retreat center.

I have SO MUCH time all of a sudden. Six month ago I would have a list and fill every square centimeter with projects, ambitions and plans. But now, I find my mind is mushy and slow after years of adrenal fatigue and stress. And I don’t even care enough to care anymore. My reset button has only just turned back on, and its taking a little while to warm the system up again.

Its OK. Somehow it’s all OK.

Stressful moments like this morning are becoming increasingly rare. The Ticos say, “Dont worry. Tranquilo.” And for the first time, I know what they mean. The frenetic pace in the States seems like a crazy circus from here.

I love to walk the kids to their new school. Donning crisp, white button-down shirts and fresh haircuts, they look eager to learn. Against all the beautiful Tico kids with big brown eyes, cocoa skin and dark hair, they look SO gringo! They look exotic, these little gems of ours. I admire their courage. They took to school easily, had friends within five minutes. They already know some Spanish. They’re like their father- easy to adjust to nascent surroundings. They find comfort in one another. The three Musketeers. I am able to savor simple moments like walking to school, snuggling in the hammock, laughing and making dinner together, building a sand castle.

The afternoons tend to be hot and breezy this time of year. The gold beetles are mating and dozens make their way into the house every day. At night, they sound like rain hitting the windows as they fly toward the light inside. This afternoon, I was sweeping up the dead beetles strewn all over the floor, and paused to watch puffy, white clouds curl up over the green mountain. I make dinner as the sun sets…garlic and onions, sips of Chilean Malbec. And there are hours for Marty and me to give one another massages, watch movies, and make love.

And within these tranquil days, there’s learning. I am trying to learn as much Spanish as I can. I feel dependent on Marty because he is beautifully fluent. Although he has bright green eyes and taller than most Ticos, they often mistake him for a native Mexican because of his accent. It often opens doors for us here. I spend 2 hours a day on Duolingo. It is helping, however, I don’t think I’ll ever use the phrase, “The ducks drink milk.” again.

And we’re trying to glean as much information about how to make a new life here. I inundate local friends, Ticos, and members of the expat association, with endless questions. We have heard so many scary stories of Ticos taking advantage of Gringos, how we must find a competent lawyer ASAP, to trust no one, the crime rate is soaring. Settle in Ecuador or Panama! People tell us Costa Rica is unstable, too expensive, already discovered and overpriced.

One the other side of the story are the big, warm smiles from our Tico neighbors. Our happy friends who have lived here for 15 years. And then there are the people in the States. Friends and family trying to escape the “hamster wheel”. Just about everyone I talk to either says we are nuts to live here, or that they want to move to Costa Rica. But living in Costa Rica really isn’t for most Americans. Many people I know would love to visit, but not love living here. There are a lot of bugs and snakes if you’re squeamish like that. And there’s a deep wildness unlike any I’ve experienced in the Sates (both in ecology and culture!), and the Ticos’ way of doing things can feel very foreign.

It feels like I am letting go of any vestiges of materialism. Compared to the locals, we live like kings with our 1992 Isuzu Trooper jalopy, and $400-a-month, humble rental house. But it truly feels like what we have is all we need. We don’t have a washing machine, so I made a deal with a local to do our laundry in trade for coaching sessions. One hundred little rivelets of deals and agreements add up to a river of comfort. It somehow all works out. How you get your raw milk, laundry done, and bananas add up to a fun daily adventure of hunting and gathering. The Ticos call is “Camaroneando”, literally “Shrimping”– lots of little jobs and set-ups to get what you need.

I told Marty our future is wide open, so we must be careful what we fill it with. What do I want to create? What do I want to do with the second half of my life? What is best for our children?

 

And this leads me right back to where it all started…Me.

 

Because wherever you go, there you are. Again and again there is still that unanswered question that it all boils down to me….”Who am I?”

What do I want?

Now that the old external pressures have faded, and I am on an ever deeper level of my be-ing in this life, in this time, this age, now…Who Am I?

I observe the pressure that wells up from within and question their origins. I witness the persistent ways of being that have been there my entire existence. And then I attempt  to decipher which of these are ‘real’ and which are old stories that keep me bound to reacting.

What a gift it is to be able to have time to reflect and appreciate! All paths seem to circle back to gratitude.

 

Follow my Blog at www.sunnystrasburg.com

Yoga In The Jungle. Costa Rica April 10-15, 2013

Last modified on 2013-03-10 00:00:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Costa Rica April 10-15, 2013

Come escape into the rainforest with Sunny and Demi this Spring. Unplug from the busy hubbub of life and reconnect with yourself through nature.Retreat will be held at the Finca Mia Retreat Center in Costa Rica, located at the foot of Mount Chirripo in the Costa Rica Rainforest.

You will get a unique travel adventure experiencing the heart of nature first hand. In between yoga sessions, meals and guided hikes you can sunbathe on giant boulders next to the river, listen to the myriad of birdcalls and stroll the lush green trails.

Dates: April 10-14 2013
Cost: $775-$975 (depending on lodging option)

Price includes:
*4 nights lodging
*Shuttle from San Jose to Finca Mia and Back
*Organic Meals
*Daily Yoga Practice for All Levels Daily
*Pranayama and Meditation Practice
*Guided Nature Hike
* Fire Ceremony

Price Does Not include airfare

To register contact Demi @
demi@demilangford.com , 801-835-4064

Register by March 1st and Save $100.00

Love Crafting Workshop at Envision Thursday, February 27

Last modified on 2013-03-10 00:01:09 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I will be presenting Love Crafting Workshop at Envision Thursday, February 27 at noon in the Tea Lounge. Come join us!

http://www.2013.envisionfestival.com/index.php/experience/2013-schedules/item/503-spoken-workshop-schedule

Love Crafting: Intimacy Intro  (c) 2012 Sunny Strasburg, MA, LMFT

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anais Nin

Do you want to feel pure joy and ease in your love life? Most of us really want that, but relationships are often more complicated than just loving enough.

Our lives offer a wide spectrum of different types of intimacy….we love our children, parents, friends, lovers, and life partners. Although all of these relationships have different roles and boundaries, in common in each is how deep we can open ourselves up to love. That’s because ultimately, all relationships are really about us.

Every relationship is a mirror—reflecting features of ourselves, offering direct experience of who we are, to see what we project outward, and the energy we resonate. Through this presentation, we can see a bit of why: what our growing edges are, and most importantly, offer a pathway to learn about loving ourselves.

Love Crafting: Intimacy Intro is a workshop exploring how we show up in relationship. Through dialog and interaction, we explore how we are blocked from having the love we desire. We look at both our own, as well as our loved ones’ styles of attachment and communication. I also offer practical tools to use in real-time to repair struggling relationships.

Whether you would like to bring more light and love to the current relationship you’re in, or gain clarity on the relationship you would like to attract, this workshop is the perfect opportunity to gain some insight into yourself and others. This process of loving yourself extends to enhancing the peace and fulfillment in all of the ways we love.

This insightful workshop will be facilitated by Sunny Strasburg, MA, LMFT. Sunny

Instinct or Mindfulness?

Last modified on 2013-03-10 00:01:25 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

So many things have been percolating up and simmering in my mind. There is time here in the Caribbean for deep reflection, reconnection with myself and pure experiencing in a way I have long forgotten, but enthusiastically welcome again. This epoch for me is about surrender, receiving and witnessing. This is not a time for frenetic doing, just be-ing.

Up until two months ago, there was a crazy push to jump off the merry-go-round that was my life. I exercised two hours a day, saw my therapy clients, cleaned my house, volunteered, took care of my children, husband and pets, made as much art as I was able, and ran our household. It was exhausting. People told me to cut down on exercise, but instinctively I knew that that was what was keeping me sane- a chance to move my body, feel grounded and alive. Every day, at around ten o-clock at night, I would drag myself to my bed and fall into a deep, but troubled slumber. I infrequently recalled my dreams, but when I did, they were typically full of ominous warnings to make a life change or perish. Doors closing, death and stunted plants filled my symbolic landscape. Sometimes, there would be a path on one side with light beckoning me elsewhere.

Although I loved my life- the kind of work I do, my therapy clients, and my friends and family, I was burning the candle at both ends. My adrenal glands were vaporized– the fatigue got so bad, all of my hormones just shut off one day from exhaustion. I knew I needed something different, a new life. My sensitive psyche is not meant for that kind of endless pushing. I felt like I was on a merry-go-round that was spinning faster and faster. And to leave, unfortunately, it meant I needed to push even harder. I had to work harder and more to gather the resources to create the change of life I needed. I had been expending enormous amounts of energy to torque it faster and faster with enough speed to leap off.

So here I am. Ah, Here I am!

I drink my morning tea and sit outside. Howler monkeys and birds make their daily raucous. What a wonderful symphony of life. Of be-ing! I have been carefully watching the ouropendula birds building their nests. Its an amazing, intricate dance of complex communication and advanced engineering. Their nests are tear-drop shaped pendulums built from thousands of tiny sticks they gather in the rain forest. Goudy would be envious. The little Chihuahua mother and daughter at our host’s house play and run around. The sweet mama opens the screen door for her baby to enter because Vela hasn’t figured out the mechanics yet. And our generous host, Andre, a funky German mystic, shared last night that the giant, venomous bushmaster snakes mate for life. If you kill one with a machete, legend has it, it’s lover will hunt you down and kill you out of revenge.

It has led me to ponder whether animals merely operate out of instinct, as animals behaviorists claim, or if they have a more ornate mindfulness and altruism we have not given them credit for. We either project our human style of  intelligence… this self reflexive chatter and judgement, or we project that our minds are higher/better than animals (even though we ARE animals). Its such an outpouring of the Judeo-Christian ethos. Perhaps there are not hierarchical types of intelligence from idiotic to genius. Perhaps there is a broad and diverse spectrums of knowing.

And these thoughts have circled back to me watching my own mind and ways of being. What is my natural way of being? What do I like? How do I want to unfold? I know, I should know these things by now, but unfortunately, the din of my previous life drowned out that quiet inner voice. My reality became a tapestry of “shoulds” and “ought to’s”, external validation and disassociation from myself. And the funny thing is, I felt like I was living true to myself. I was teaching others how to wake up to themselves. But I could’t see the water I swam in. No one and nothing did it to me, it was just that my energy field seems to be very permeable to the consensual reality.

I find that some days I like to run fast, hike, play. Other days, I just want to write or read. I like to do yoga outside, looking at the sea and hearing the birds, sometimes, I just want to eat chocolate. I like introversion and reflection as much as I like deep conversing with interesting people. I LOVE the rainforest, but just like the beach. I find, much to my surprise, that I have the patience to quietly observe the natural world, taking in and noticing the intricacies of the interactions. Just like I love observing people and their ways of being listening deeply to their stories, the animals and plants have this to offer me as well. I know I am meant to be a therapist and artist. I love working with people- hearing their stories and collaborating on their psychic unfolding.

We are staying with Andre, as I mentioned earlier. He is a German and has led a fascinating life, or rather life times. He was a Tibetan Monk, Osho’s chef and bodyguard, and Indian mystic, a two-time black belt in martial arts. He ran a psychology center for troubled youth in Southern California, and he is now somewhat of a shaman. I think Martin and I love Andre because he is an amalgamation of all the best aspects of our fathers. He is like my stepfather, Jerry with his dry wit and wisdom and his ability to build things. He is like my father, Nyle because he is German, detail oriented and emotionally loving and generous. He is like Marty’s dad, Larry because he is super intelligent, philosophical and he is a seeker. I feel we have a deep, deep karmic connection. There is something which wants to unfold between the three of us, and I am sill unsure what it is. He feels like a wise father for me and I am so delighted to be in his presence. It is incredibly rare that I feel like surrendering to listen and take in someone else’s advice and ideas without needing to assert my own. But he is so wise, I am enjoying the process of receptivity.

Andre is reminding me not to be in a hurry. To put out in the Universe what is turning me on, and then surrender to see, and witness what presents itself. That feels good to me and it is delightful to feel out this new way of mindfulness.  I am grateful for this new mentor in my life.

I had a dream this morning that as I ran on the dirt road here near the house, there was something running parallel to me in the tall grass. I was frightened, but continued at my pace, watching out of the side of my eye. It cut across the field toward me. As it came to me, I saw it was an enormous female puma. Her head was low as she ran along stealthily hunting me. I gasped as she leapt high in the air, her enormous head snarling to pounce on me. As she swooped upon me from above, rather than crushing me, she entered into my body through the crown of my head. Her entire body turned to a warm liquid and poured into me. Her weight dipped down, as if diving into a pool below the ground and her energy body descended below my feet into the ground. Then she curled up into a fetal position for only a moment. Then she turned to surface head first and entered my body again though my feet. As she came up, the dream changed. I was looking into a rainforest grotto to what seemed to be a tiny, trickling waterfall. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was an optical illusion, and the grotto was actually a very deep canyon. The trickling waterfall was actually an enormous, rushing waterfall that was far away. I began to run toward it, looking forward to a refreshing swim. This dream feels hopeful for me.

 

B-R-E-A-T-H-E

Last modified on 2013-03-10 00:01:40 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I went to bed last night frustrated at not having the car we’re trying to buy, nor reliable internet so that I can make my Skype video calls with my therapy clients, as well as my friends and family I am missing in the States. But after a night of deep rest, this morning, I awoke to the tropical birds calling and a soft breeze blowing the white curtains of our little casita. The tension was gone. As I relaxed in bed, I reflected on this amazing vehicle my soul has been chauffeured around in during this lifetime. And it feels as if this journey has been not merely a singular, but rather, several lifetimes.

I laced up my running shoes and headed out the door with Martin. Each morning, we have been running up on the Chirripo Volcano trails. Its so much fun to share the experience. We see our local friends, and watch the early morning farmers walking their mules laden with fresh steel buckets full of raw milk to the pulperia. In some strange way, I feel some sort of guidance when I am up on that mountain. And I receive the insights gratefully.

Listening to my breath and the soft padding of my feet on the trail, I returned to gratitude. Gratitude is the path back to happiness. I have been deeply blessed with radiant health, good luck and an adventurous heart. That is not to say I have never struggled or toiled feverishly. There have been many times throughout my 42 years, when I have lost my way, forgot my truth and languished in indecision, poverty and loneliness. However without fail, my angels seem to gently nudge me toward my truth. I am most thankful for my ability to listen to their guidance in times when I have been hopelessly lost on my path. It seems these spirits offer an inner compass back to my innermost truth when I need them most. I suppose they are here for all of us, we just need to be able to listen to our intuition and follow it.

And here I am, in Costa Rica! This is The Dream my love, Martin and I have had for at least twenty years. It took so much to get here. So much focus and tenacity. I am very much comfortable in the toiling to get to my goal, but success is much less comfortable. After being so driven, focused and tenacious for so long, I’m not quite sure how to turn it off and relish in the completion. The concocted fantasy of how delicious it will be when I arrive seems to be in contrast with the actuality. The problem lies within myself, rather than with whatever thing I have been chasing.

It is a strange place for me to be when I finally arrive at a destination which I have worked so hard to get to. And here again, I stand at the apex of a goal completed not quite knowing what to do with myself. From this vantage point, I am able to see all the other mountaintops of the successes in my life….When we moved to Mount Shasta and built our dream house, when I had our twins after years of infertility and miscarriages, when I completed my master’s thesis after five years of intense study, when I placed in the half marathon against so many strong women, and many more. Looking back, these triumphs feel incredibly sweet, but when they were actually happening, my mind kept playing, “What’s next?”

My guide nudged me…B-r-e-a-t-h-e.

I stopped my trajectory at a vista looking out over the pretty valley. I opened my arms wide and took in a deep breath. I stood looking out. The epiphany crept into my conscious mind to surrender, again, surrender. Ugh! SURRENDER, again?!

But the next realization came to deepen the awareness. What is important is to be honest about what this time offers. There is a unique blend that only comes together once in a lifetime, a unique blend of this land, this culture, this mind, body and spirit, mood, friends… all of it. The car isn’t happening, the internet isn’t happening and it is all unfolding with absolute perfection. It is an offering for something new. What you have been pining for is here, love. Time to write, time to paint, time to connect with new friends, time to connect with my children, with nature. Writer and occultist Dion Fortune said evil is energy and force misplaced in time. Now I understand this. Surrender to the uniqueness of THIS moment, and magic will follow.

 

 

Like Pachamama Says, “Tranquilo.”

Last modified on 2013-01-21 23:35:27 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

I am used to the comfy neuronal cow paths in my brain. They are well-worn habits that I have been traipsing up and down for years in my funny, little life in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. These habits, completely constructed from the inner landscape of my psyche, began to feel like reality…the way things are….The “real world”. From my little vantage point, I was smug in thinking at 42 years of age, I had finally figured it out. Turns out that kind of self-righteous certainty only reflects ignorance.

I recently brought my family to Costa Rica. And although the Latin American, Catholic culture and the many hippies who inhabit this little mountain community arent that different from what I find familiar, this experience has already been a massive test of my adaptability.

I am noticing both the micro shift within my own personal reality, as well as the macro differences of flora, fauna, climate and culture and they ways they influence the individual and collective psyche.

In the book, Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond hypothesized that there is no cultural superiority. We humans merely evolve and adapt perfectly to match our environment. Not only do we adapt to our external world, as Diamond posits, but I find, the environment we live in colonizes our psyche as well. Our internal archetypal reality begins to resonate with and mirror the morphic resonance of the surrounding external landscape.

This is purely my experience. And these thoughts and ideas are percolating up from my own depths.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, my experience is an acidic harshness and rigidity. In the Utah desert, there are extreme weather shifts in the dry, desert environment. Winter is bitter cold and summer is blistering hot. There is an energy to hoard. “Make hay while the sun shines.” There has been a long history from the pioneers who settled the area that still continues today, to have the moral incentive to work hard and store food for the long, harsh winter. The pioneers adapted perfectly to the local environmental stress. And somehow, what used to be storing fundamentals like land, grain and potatoes in the 1800’s has culturally morphed today into hoarding money and products of consumer culture.

And this is not only in Utah, but throughout Western culture. The hedonistic treadmill feeds an insatiable sense of lack, coming from the consumer culture spewing advertising out on billboards, magazine advertising and television, 24/7. Its nearly impossible to escape.

The result of this environmental input on my psyche has been to strive and struggle. I experience there is a need to resist and defend from outside offenders. Almost like an auto-immune disease in my energetic field. And even when I resist, the consensual reality seeps in. I work incessantly and have a directed, driven way of living. For me, life in Utah feels like a struggle. To make ends meet, to measure up to an external ideal of a married woman with children who is not only successful and talented, but also witty and funny.

I strain to resist the constant input of advertising because after consuming its message, I feel a sense of lack and helplessness. I end up feeling old and ugly…less than. And if I just buy the next thing, and the next thing, somehow at the end of the yellow brick road, I will arrive and all will be perfect. Of course, built into the consuming system is that I will never arrive and that keeps me spending, and working and spending endlessly on some sadistic hamster wheel of life energy.

And then again, that drive and directed sense of purpose, which in Jungian psychology is the Positive Masculine, is very effective. It gets shit done, takes care of business. It created things like the internet and this very blog I am now writing this on. I definitely have gratitude for some of it. I’m grateful for the parts of that system that suit me, I guess. And Salt Lake City has been good to me in many ways. It is just in this comparative state and the nascence of my new adventure that is revealing these contrasts.

So here I am, in Costa Rica. Where I live, there are no billboards. I do not have TV. I am lucky to get spots of internet. Women here have a natural beauty- no make-up, hair color, or fancy clothes. But rather, they possess wide-open eyes, bright smiles and a mindful, patient presence that I have rarely experienced.

The environment reflects what I have experienced in its people. The land is wildly beautiful in this lush cloud forest. Life inhabits every nook and cranny. If I hang the bathroom rug to dry on the shower, within an hour there is a happy spider with a full spun web all settled in munching on a bug.

Here, Pachamama has spread her dank Yin all over the place. And the dominant force in this land is the Positive Feminine.

I marvel at the moss and bromeliads, spiders, insects, birds covering the whole world like a moist blanket. The roads are unpaved and rocky, and the old people walk up and down them with a life force unmatched by people I know in the USA who are 30 years younger. The hippies and Ticos here remind me of Hobbits hidden in the mountain. They live in quirky, half-assed built houses made of stucco and salvaged sheets of visquene.

And nothing, nothing is done in a linear way. I was once told Costa Rica is process oriented, rather than results oriented. And after being here, I couldn’t agree more. The answer you get to any inquiry as to when something will be finished, “Now and also in a little while.”

I showed up with my hoarding nature, and I’m not sure how long its going to take to shake it off. In Utah, I go to Costco and buy bulk packages of everything, leave my bread bags open on the counter, and wait a week for avocados to ripen.

In Costa Rica, I buy bananas and the next morning I find them half-eaten by animals and all black. There is no hoarding here. The jungle consumes all. That’s why there are no archeological artifacts other than a few pots and the stone temples in the jungle. Like Ankor Wat in Combodia, the jungle eats everything here as well.

The energy is, why buy two bunches of bananas? Just walk over there and pick one off of the tree when you’re hungry. A new friend told me, “You don’t need money here. If you’re hungry, just go over there and pick a mandarin orange. If you have 2 oranges, trade one for eggs from the neighbor. In the USA, you have to pay money you work for hours for just to drink clean water.”

There is also an energy that accompanies pervading Yin… surrender and to be receptive. I am finding my energy, so masculine and driven, is usually met with either a confused stare or a chuckle and a shaking head. Another new friend told me, “You’ll get over that (waving his hand in my general direction), in a year or so.”

The lovely pregnant mama of the family who is sharing our communal kitchen strides slowly about, getting things done at a tranquil pace, poco-a-poco. I marvel at her serenity. When she speaks to me, her big eyes taking me all in and just listening with long pauses, I get self conscious and start making random chit-chat to fill up the quiet.

This is good for me, though. I can feel it. Getting all that shit done wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. In this land of abundance, maybe all that “make hay while the sun shines” energy is useless and counter-productive. We’ll see if I will adapt to my new environment, as Mr Diamond posited. Perhaps the old cow paths will grow over and new ones will form, this time, through the dense jungle.

 

Getting Milk in Costa Rica

Last modified on 2013-01-18 16:35:04 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

There’s a learning curve here living in Costa- things are so different. We’re trying to get all the infrastructure together and learn how to get things done.

 

In the States, if you need some household object, let’s say milk for example, you get in your car, drive down to the supermarket, find it on the shelf and have an impersonal, dry interaction with the check-out person and you’re on your way.

 

Here, in the mountains of small-town Costa Rica, we get up at 6am to talk to Jose before he leaves to work on the farm, the innkeeper where we’re staying, and let him know we’re looking for milk. He tells you to walk down to the corner and on the other side of the pulperia is Carlos, who, on Saturdays and Tuesdays gets milk from Juan, who by the way, was like a father to him when he arrived 11 years ago……

 

After 30 minutes of taking with Ian about his history with Juan, we’re on our way, still in search of milk (but by this time, the initial thing we were looking for is getting lost in all the stories about how Jose almost lost a finger when it got caught in the burro’s saddle, and how Juan helped him to the clinic where they put Sangre de Drago on it and it miraculously healed…..

 

So we walk down to see if Carlos, on the other side of the pulperia, has milk today from Juan. When we inquire he looks up in the sky and pauses. “Mmmmmmm, Si, si, Tendremos leche mañana.” Now the thing is, Ticos never, ever want to seem like they’re unhelpful or unknowledgeable. So they will make up ANYTHING to seem like they’re being helpful and accommodating. So, based on his pause and shifty eyes, we know that’s probably not the case. And also, the same as with Jose, we spend 30 minutes learning all about Carlos and his family and that his son had appendicitis last year and almost died, but he is now on the mend.

 

So, we proceed down to Carlos’ farm, but by this time, its noon and Carlos has left hours ago with the milk on his burro for the market. But just so happens that as we’re walking back up to the finca where we are staying, we run into Maria, who has 4 quarts of milk slung over her shoulder. Without even asking, she offers us a quart.

 

That pretty much sums it up. I’m trying to surrender to the fact that everything we need seems to miraculously show up. Sometimes its not what we originally wanted, but is actually closer to what we need.

 

I once read that Costa Rica is very PROCESS oriented rather than RESULTS oriented (as we are in the States). Its pretty interesting for a driven, type-A personality like me to leaner how to surrender to this culture. But I can feel its good medicine for my psyche.

Speaking at Envision Festival, Costa Rica 2013

Last modified on 2013-01-03 14:57:46 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Come check me out at Envision Fest 2013. MMMM….mmmm….MMMM!!…dreaming of that wonderful vibe, warm sun, beautiful souls, sounds and visions.

c) 2012 Sunny Strasburg, MA, LMFT

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anais Nin

Do you want to feel pure joy and ease in your love life? Most of us really want that, but relationships are often more complicated than just loving enough.

Our lives offer a wide spectrum of different types of intimacy….we love our children, parents, friends, lovers, and life partners. Although all of these relationships have different roles and boundaries, in common in each is how deep we can open ourselves up to love. That’s because ultimately, all relationships are really about us.

Every relationship is a mirror—reflecting features of ourselves, offering direct experience of who we are, to see what we project outward, and the energy we resonate. Through this presentation, we can see a bit of why: what our growing edges are, and most importantly, offer a pathway to learn about loving ourselves.

Love Crafting: Intimacy Intro is a workshop exploring how we show up in relationship. Through dialog and interaction, we explore how we are blocked from having the love we desire. We look at both our own, as well as our loved ones’ styles of attachment and communication. I also offer practical tools to use in real-time to repair struggling relationships.

Whether you would like to bring more light and love to the current relationship you’re in, or gain clarity on the relationship you would like to attract, this workshop is the perfect opportunity to gain some insight into yourself and others. This process of loving yourself extends to enhancing the peace and fulfillment in all of the ways we love.

Sunny Strasburg, MA, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in Jungian and Depth psychotherapy. Sunny has completed Levels I, II and III Advanced Training in Gottman Method Couple’s Therapy. Sunny meets clients in person at her office in Salt Lake City. Sunny also has a national and international clientele. She also offers counseling services via video Skype. Please contact Sunny if you are interested in setting up an appointment.

To learn more about Sunny, please visit her website www.sunnystrasburg.com. If you are interested in individual, couples or family therapy, please send an email to Sunny at sunnys@jps.net

http://www.2013.envisionfestival.com/index.php/experience/spoken-workshops/item/213-love-crafting-with-sunny-strasburg-ma-lmft

Sacred Food

Last modified on 2013-01-03 14:57:57 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

A gorgeous video made in Costa Rica. Sacred food.

Blakely Stein * lady love food from Zipporah on Vimeo.

Dream Symbolism

Last modified on 2013-01-03 14:58:06 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Someone recently asked me what bears mean in dreams. Here was my reply: I work with dreams a lot in my therapy practice- its been fascinating to do this qualitative research and hear the myriad of ways animals show up in dreams. I really don’t think we can write a book on dream symbols and name what each thing represents for everyone.

The meaning is yours and yours alone.Archetypes do have certain constant qualities that are universally recognizable– For example, a snake slithers on the ground. No one would associate slithering on the ground with bears. A bear is large, lumbers along, usually in the wild, stays with her and nurtures her young, has a dual personality that appears docile and “teddybear-like”, or ferocious and terrifying. etc.

The importance is what the dreamer associates with these enduring qualities of the dream animal (or symbol). For me, bears represent the power of Mother. I will protect my children ferociously, or play with them and snuggle gently. For a trader on Wall Street, the bear means something completely different– a “bearish market”.So, when you dream of a bear (or anything else that shows up provocatively in your dream), ask yourself, “What do I associate with bears?” And also, “What aspect of me is bear-like in my life right now?”

And it is wonderful for our “totem” animals to shift and change throughout our dreaming lives– it represents that we too are growing and changing. Every situation in life calls for a unique and adaptable response.

Someone recently asked me what bears mean in dreams. Here was my reply: I work with dreams a lot in my therapy practice- its been fascinating to do this qualitative research and hear the myriad of ways animals show up in dreams. I really don't think we can write a book on dream symbols and name what each thing represents for everyone.</p>
<p>The meaning is yours and yours alone.</p>
<p>Archetypes do have certain constant qualities that are universally recognizable-- For example, a snake slithers on the ground. No one would associate slithering on the ground with bears. A bear is large, lumbers along, usually in the wild, stays with her and nurtures her young, has a dual personality that appears docile and "teddybear-like", or ferocious and terrifying. etc.</p>
<p>The importance is what the dreamer associates with these enduring qualities of the dream animal (or symbol). For me, bears represent the power of Mother. I will protect my children ferociously, or play with them and snuggle gently. For a trader on Wall Street, the bear means something completely different-- a "bearish market".</p>
<p>So, when you dream of a bear (or anything else that shows up provocatively in your dream), ask yourself, "What do I associate with bears?" And also, "What aspect of me is bear-like in my life right now?"</p>
<p>And it is wonderful for our "totem" animals to shift and change throughout our dreaming lives-- it represents that we too are growing and changing. Every situation in life calls for a unique and adaptable response.

Fail to Plan….Plan to Fail

Last modified on 2012-10-29 12:34:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Recently, I was asked how I accomplish goals in my life. The person who asked me about goals was feeling frustrated that she is able to set goals, but finds blocks within accomplishing the goal. She was looking over notes she took from one of my workshops I taught with Demi Langford, where I said “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” and she asked me to expound on how I apply that concept in my own life.

This was my reply,

Fail to Plan…Plan to Fail.

I sometimes struggle with frustration in not accomplishing as much as I feel I want/need to. Definitely caring for my three kids, sustaining a functional household, creating and building a successful therapy business, and expanding my art career– the list is long. It seems I have eyes bigger than my calendar!

But, I have developed a few habits that create the recipe for me to accomplish my goals. First of all, I spend A LOT of time planning– making lists. My family even teases me about how everything has to go on the “List”, but without it, I would be lost! I find that with my short attention span, a list creates an outline for my day. This is a big reason why for me, planning helps immensely.

The night before each day, I review my list and visualize the next day’s flow.

In setting long, and short-term goals, the first step is to articulate exactly WHAT the big goal is. I define it. In that process, I try to make sure its SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Based). Then I create a deadline.

Next, I backtrack and break each goal down into monthly (if necessary), weekly, and daily tasks. I add these tasks into my calendar. I use the Calendar on my iPhone and iMac, and iPad– so I see it in several places and all update automatically on iCloud- so they’re synced. I also write my daily tasks in a written notebook. I’m probably old-school, but the process of writing them down and physically crossing them off the list helps them feel more tangible for me.

I MAKE SURE that I do something, no matter how small, EVERY day to take a step toward that goal. I take a little bit of joy crossing it off my list, knowing I’m a tiny bit closer to the Big One. Sometimes, that requires me doing something I’m afraid of, or I dislike, but if its necessary to get the Big Goal done, it’s done– usually first thing in the morning.

And I allow those goals to be malleable. If I get close to the end, and I want to tweak it because I’ve learned more about it, or I feel differently about it, I change. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you get close to the finish line!

Also, finally, (and this is something I’ve only figured out very recently) sometimes I can’t just force things like a pitbull to make them happen, no matter how hard I try.  if I fall short because of things I couldn’t control, or even if I dropped the ball by getting ill, or unmotivated, or whatever, I know myself well enough now, to know I’m driven. So, I trust that natural tendency that I will push for what I want and trust myself enough to allow time and circumstances to line up.

And of course (and this has been tough for me to learn and accept), I surrender to the flow of the Universe. Maybe it didn’t work out because I need to learn something, or there’s something better waiting for me.

I find that when my goals were hard earned, I had to face a lot of fear or uncertainty, they are so much sweeter when I succeed.

Hope this helps and good luck reaching for the stars

Patience

Last modified on 2012-07-26 01:20:48 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Quite often life brings us events that feel like waking dreams- symbolic occurrences that mirror what our psyche has been turning around in our unconscious minds. When I’m lucky and open, these little gifts are offered, seemingly in the hopes of assisting some little awakening. Better yet, these synchronicities present themselves in my waking life not only for my benefit, but also as gentle invitations to witness and bring back to my therapy clients as offerings of potential insight.

Last week in my therapy office, the theme seemed to be Patience. Many of my clients were struggling with wanting change, wanting life to be better, wanting their suffering to stop, their relationships to be better. I too was impatient in my personal life. The flow I had felt a year ago seemed to be stagnant and I felt like a leopard at the zoo, pacing back and forth on the worn path at the edge of its cage.

I had an hour between two appointments with clients, and I rushed out to my truck to run an errand. I was in a rush, impatient with my long to-do list. As I unlocked my door, I noticed a young, disabled man in an electric wheel chair slowly making his way up the sidewalk toward the side entrance of the office building which doesn’t have stairs he would have to navigate. I nodded to him as he passed. It seemed he only had one very thin and gnarled hand which could operate a joystick control for the chair.

I ran my errand, and 25 minutes later returned and parked in the same spot. I looked over and again, noticed the same man in the wheelchair parked outside, facing the closed door of my building.

Oh my God, I thought, he’s been waiting there for a half-an-hour for someone to open the door!

I walked over and greeted him. He smiled and nodded. I said, “Have you been waiting for 30 minutes for someone to happen along and open this door for you?!” I asked.

“Yes.”

“You must have to practice patience all the time!” I exclaimed.

“It’s ok,” he answered, “Its beautiful today. I was watching the birds in that maple tree who have a nest. They’ve been bringing food back to feed their chicks.” He craned his neck and looked up.

“I’ve never noticed them.” I said and indeed, there was a tiny nest in the tree. He just smiled at me.

“Have a nice day.” He said and rolled over the threshold of the doorway and down the hall.

I stood there a moment, looking up at the nest. In my rush to and from work, I had never stopped for even a moment to notice.

I reflected for a few moments on the gift of that little interaction. Know where you’re going, trust that life will open the necessary doors for you. Don’t bother focusing on how much you suffer, or how unfair it all is. Focus on what you can enjoy along the journey.

 

Beautiful. Thank you, whoever you are.

 

Radio Interview on KMUD about the Hero/Heroine’s Journey

Last modified on 2012-07-06 23:21:03 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I just had a wonderful interview with Sunshine Magick for her radio talk show about the Alchemist’s Path. Listen to her show The Pagan Perspective on July 15 9:30-10:30AM PST on www.KMUD.com

 

You can listen to it right now by clicking here (if you want to get to the interview, go to minute 18:30): Interview with Sunny Strasburg by Sunshine Magic on Pagan Perspective

Announcements Sunny Strasburg, LMFT Summer 2012

Last modified on 2012-06-28 01:18:45 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

 

Announcements, Sunny 2012

Hello Friends,

I hope this message finds you well and happy. Summer is in full swing. The weather is gorgeous, the plants are green and flowering, and life seems just a bit more relaxed and free with summer break around the corner.

There are several upcoming workshops, festivals and announcements coming up to share with you.

I’m honored to be in the process of becoming a Dr. John Gottman Certified Therapist specializing in Relationship Therapy. Dr John Gottman is currently one of the leading experts in relationship therapy. He has been cited in several publications including the national best seller, Blink. He was recenlty a guest on the Cooper Show with Anderson Cooper. In the video below, Dr. Gottman offers his central concept, The Four Deadly Horsemen and how they predict divorce or happy marriages. Watch it here:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

On June 7-10, the Desert Rocks Festival event happens in Green River, Utah. I am honored to be included as an artist and speaker with some of my heroes such as; Andrew Jones, Carey Thompson, and Daniel Pinchbeck. I will be presenting two workshops. The first being The Alchemist’s Path, where we will be exploring the Hero and Heroine’s Journey as a way to empower and own your life.The second offering is Urban Love, where we will explore intimacy, attachment and relationship in the context of modern intimacy. This will be a highly interactive and informative group process session.

I am also featuring my art work in the Art Dome and have prints for sale at the Art. You can learn more about the speakers at

Desert Rocks by clicking here: https://desertrocks.org/#lowerContentPane:lnk4494

Click on the link below to see workshops, speakers,artists and to get your tickets:

Watch for upcoming retreats The Four Archetypal Elements and the Hero’s Journey in Moab, Utah in October, 2012. Also, keep in your mind I will be offering several retreats next year in beautiful Costa Rica.

My colleague, the mezmerizing Sofiah Thom hosts several incredible workshops every year both at her studio, Bamboo Yoga Play in Dominical, Costa Rica, as well as several wonderful opporuitnities to connect and commune in the States. She is an incredible voice for the positive feminine.Check out Sofiah’s upcoming retreats by clicking on the image below. 

 

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for videos:

Sunny Strasburg YouTube

 

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photo by Weston Hall

As a licensed marriage and fmaily therapist, I see individuals, couples and families. I specialize in Jungian, Depth and Narrative psychotherapy. I focus on resiliency, self efficacy and celebrating how each of us are on the Hero/Heroine’s Journey.

My office is in Dr. Todd Mangum’s office, the address is:

508 East South Temple, Suite 102

Salt Lake City, UT 84102

Let me know if you would like to set up and appointment.

801-641-8140 and sunnys@jps.net

www.sunnystrasburg.com

Warmly,

Sunny Strasburg, MA, LMFT

We also offer the e-book, The 8 Secrets of Mind Body Fat Loss,
As well as The Mind Body Fat Loss Membership Forum a monthly membership to an online community in which you receive support from other members on the forum, as well as personalized interactions with Demi and me.
For more information, videos, recipes, tips and tricks, please visit us here:
Sunny is available for private sessions. For more information, please contact her at sunnys@jps.net

 

 

Gluttony and Sufficiency by Sunny Strasburg, MFT

Last modified on 2012-04-08 21:15:30 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Gluttony and Sufficiency 

by Sunny Strasburg, MFT

 

I had an epiphany on a recent hike with my family in the southern Utah desert. Let me start off by assuring you that my three children are empathic and loving little people. For the hike that morning, I carefully packed healthy lunches for each person, plenty of water, a trail map, and a ziplock bag with about 30 cinnamon bears. These little goodies are among the kids’ favorites, not to mention a useful motivational tool when the trail gets tough.

 

After the strenuous, but visually rewarding hike, we settled down on a slick-rock outcropping with a jaw-dropping view of the San Rafael Swell laid out before us. The picnic was restorative and relaxing. We all joked and told stories, enjoying our meal together. As an Italian Mama, this is the sort of thing I relish in.

 

As we were finishing up, our eldest son, Andre grabbed the ziplock bag of bears out of the collective pack and began to slink away to another rock about 30 feet away. “Andre,” I reminded him, “Please be sure to eat 10 or less of those bears and save the rest for the other kids, so that everyone can have a few. That’s all the treats I brought with us today.” He nodded in acknowledgement.

 

I was surprised, therefore, a few minutes later to hear Xochi first complaining that she couldn’t find the bears, then shriek that Andre had “hogged all of them”. I confronted him, and the sheepish look on his face belied his response, “Um, I dunno…” I was taken aback at the surge of anger that welled up inside me. I harshly snapped, “Dammit Andre, you KNEW there were only a limited amount of those treats. That was really selfish!”

 

On the walk back to camp, initially there was tension, but ultimately it became a great teaching moment in which we all reflected on the bigger meaning of that episode. I’ll circle back to that lesson in a moment.

 

At the time, I had been reading a wonderful book called, “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist. Twist turned my ideas about money and abundance inside out (yes, that pun was intended.) She discusses the concept of cultivating a sense of “Sufficiency” within ourselves….that we are enough and have enough. As a culture, she explains, through both media programming and our corporate/consumer culture, are in a constant state of yearning for more. We think there’s not enough, and we need more. Most of us wake up in the morning, and our first thoughts are, “I don’t have enough time, I need more. I don’t have enough money, I need more. I don’t have good health, I need more exercise. More. More. More. I need MORE!”

 

When we are in a constant state of wanting, yearning for, aspiring to, and scheming how to get more, we are never in a state of satiation.  And this state infuses everything more deeply that we might realize. Through this collective narrative of lack, and endless search for more, we are missing the abundance that surrounds us right now. And we have done this to such a ridiculous extent, that we are languishing in absolute gluttony and STILL believing we need more.

 

That’s the saddest part, even in our overstuffed gluttony, because our eyes are focused on the horizon of where the Great Land of More, we are not in a state of appreciation for the abundance that we have right here, right now. We look right past all this goodness- the fact that we (although probably at this rate, not for long) as a nation have clothing, food, education, safe shelter, access to potable water, and advanced medicine– basic necessities than millions of people in the rest of the world do not have.

 

Especially in  the last 30 years, Americans have become narcissistic gluttons. We have fewer than 5% of the world’s population, but make 25% of the world’s pollution. Thirty percent of Americans are obese. And individually Americans have more credit card debt that anyone else in the world.

 

Meanwhile, in all of this gluttony, the largest extinction in the history of the earth since the dinosaurs is happening at this very moment. Rain forests are being slashed and burned as you read this, and global warming is becoming an undeniable fact, even to the most dense of Neo-Cons. People in impoverished and war-torn countries are starving and suffering horrific epidemics of disease and suffering. Its cause? Overconsumption by the few at the expense of the many. In other words, gluttony.

 

That was always what rubbed me the wrong way about the Law of Attraction/Abraham and The Secret fad a few years ago. The idea of “Manifesting Abundance”. Now I realize my resistance to it, because it smacks of that old Manifest Destiny philosophy with a New Age facade. Consume more. Have more. Never settle with what you have now. You are not good enough as you are, no, not until you have MORE!

 

Gluttony used to be a moral sin. And it was a sin in the eyes of most Americans before the 1950’s. I know it sounds like I’m some crazy Puritan, but hang with me for a moment. This isn’t some old fashioned, ridiculous constraint that is useless to us today. It has a purpose. In reality, when the earth is in balance and our food is grown sustainably, resources are limited. Sometimes you have to take less so everyone can have a share. Before food was ridiculously available, back when it was organic because mega-agro business wasn’t invented yet, before farmers were paid by the government to NOT grow crops, before modified corn syrup and genetically modified Frankenfood, food was seen as a valuable and limited natural resource. Being overweight was shameful because it implied a selfishness at everyone else’s expense. At the dinner table, when Tommy took seconds, mom got pissed because that meant Sally was going to go without even her first serving.

 

The idea Lyne Twist offers, “Sufficiency” feels good to me, novel. Instead of scheming on “how to get mine at any expense”, it’s waking up and telling ourselves, “I have enough, enough money, time, love and health. And what’s more, there’s enough for my family, my friends. In fact, there’s enough for everybody!” And that is a true statement, when paired with each of us engaging that Super-Ego and not taking more than what we need to be comfortable and satisfied and sharing the rest. How about turning around and looking at what we have right now and saying, “Yes, life has been good to me. I have so much wealth right now!”

 

I can just hear the Neo-Cons and Capitalist cry out, “Its man’s nature to kill or be killed! Its our nature to consume and compete! And what’s more, getting more is what makes us happy!”

 

And I disagree. We are much happier when we live in a society that is fair, relaxed and cooperative. Wake up boys, its time for a revolution! Your way never worked, as time has proven. Even the most ardent Republican can look around himself and see that the earth is not a limitless resource. It is already overburdened to the brink, way past the point of anything sustainable. We simply cannot continue on this trajectory of gluttony, at least not without everyone (except those 2% of richest gluttons) having to suffer miserably.

 

And what’s more, even if we don’t look ahead, but stayed in the myopic view of instant gratification, this over-consumption its not even making us happier. Research shows American’s happiness rates peaked in the 1950’s and have gone down ever since.  Researchers have even found an income number when people rate themselves the happiest, its $75,000 a year. That’s enough for basic needs and a little bit of padding. Beyond that, there’s actually a decline in happiness with more income.

 

“This means that aspirations increase with income; after basic needs are met, relative rather than absolute income levels influence well-being.

 

Money correlates with happiness, but the rate diminishes with more money. In 2010, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found that higher earners generally reported better life satisfaction, but people’s day-to-day emotional well-being only rose with earnings until a threshold annual income of $75,000. Wealth has not been making people happier. This is because after the basics for survival are taken care of, money cannot bring people any more happiness than they would experience without it.”

Carol Graham, The Economics of Happiness, 3, 2005.

 

Happiness declines because more stuff is more to take care of, more to worry about.

 

Bottom line, having more shit does not make you happy.

 

That story of poor people in other countries being happier even though they don’t have half of what we do has become so commonplace, its cliche. I’ve seen it myself many times in other countries. After hanging out with Guatemalans in the front, dirt yard of their tiny, cement house, pigs running indoors and out, I was perplexed by the sheer joy they had in the simplest of life’s pleasures. I was left to ponder why they were so damn happy and I was full of stress, and yet I had so much more stuff than them?! Why am I working so God damned hard, I thought, what is all that for if its not making me happier?! I have the answer. People who know how to look at what they have and feel satisfied, have an enormous amount of energy freed up to enjoy ”quality time” with the people and activities they love.

 

So back to Andre and the Cinnamon Bear Caper. On our way back to camp, Andre said something I find quite profound, “Mom, the happiness I felt gobbling up all those cinnamon bears wasn’t worth how bad I felt when it meant Xochi and Gio wouldn’t have any.” And so it is with all of us. If we take only what we need, relish in our satisfaction in that perfect amount, and share the rest. Wouldn’t the whole world feel like a more fair, sustainable, and much happier place?

 

 

 

What a great video on positive psychology!

Last modified on 2012-03-30 01:08:18 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

http://bigthink.com/ideas/24069

The Road to Chirripo

Last modified on 2012-02-23 23:27:38 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Walking up, up, up
Arriba!
The rocky path, walking stick.
My Family.

I’m a one-person cheerleading squad, with promises of visiting the Chocolate Lady when we descend the mountain.

We climb up over a lower ridge of Chirripo, ascending from our house built on top of a waterfall. This house gives a whole new meaning to “waterfront” property. A tiny house perched on top of a boulder with the rushing Rio Chirripo below.

The jungle sings. Once the roar of the river fades behind us, it is replaced by the din of buzzing insects. And then the beautiful song of a yellow bird. The smell of el tocineta and mantequilla, flowers, or cows waft through the air as we walk past Tico homes, pastures and step onto the trail. Above us circle four frigates, and a hawk chases them up into the sky.

I look back at my mom, she looks small. She steps carefully holding her walking stick, my daughter’s little hand in hers. I remember my Gramma, her walking stick, her hands. The boys are running ahead to the pulperia. They want el helado, pleading they need the energy for the long hike ahead. I give them a few colones from my pack and they race each other to the store.

Along the road to Chirripo trail, the students are walking to school, dressed in crisp, perfectly white shirts and blue trousers. The milk truck has dropped of old-fashioned milk pails along the driveways. If Norman Rockwell was in the jungle, he would have painted this.

I feel more tranquil, more me that anywhere else. I ponder that perhaps each place has a specific vibration, and the mountains of Costa Rica resonate with my internal frequency perfectly. I’m sure Costa Rica has a shadow, as everywhere does, but in the six years I’ve traveled here, I haven’t found anything dark and shadowy enough to counteract the light.

There is time here, time to discover, time to be with family, time to create. There is time here I never have in the States. I unfold and my psyche circles around and around in ever deepening spirals, a labyrinth.

We trek along, laughing and noticing the flora and fauna and cross over onto the Chirripo trail. Up we ascend, up over the ridge, we are breathing hard, feeling the humidity, listening to the jungle. On a small tree we discover an anteater. She snoozes lazily unperturbed at our excited voices.

We begin to descend toward Chuma. At the exit of the trail, we see a youth hostel with gringos milling around. We walk down to the soccer field. Martin and I walk into the elementary school and speak to the headmaster, who is about to ride his motorcycle home. He tells us there are 6 fifth graders, and 4 third graders at the school, and yes, our kids are welcome to join in next year. He shakes our hands with a big smile.

At the soda, Martin and I brainstorm about moving here. From this vantage point, the USA feels like a crazy merry-go-round spinning at break-neck speed. We want off, but how to safely jump into Costa Rica? We decide to come next year and make a promise not to have the usual amnesia when we get back to Salt Lake this year. Every time we go back there is the damned amnesia. The fog. We get sucked into what we call the Hamster Wheel. Working our asses off just to survive, never getting ahead. Busy and unhappy, full of yearning. There is that scratching at the back of my head, a static of fear and unease. Every weekday, our kids stay at after-care at school until 5pm, then we rush home to do homework, get ready for bed and then do it all over the next day.

Martin and I look deeply into each other’s eyes and make a promise. 2013…one year here in Costa Rica, beginning January 2013. We’ll leave our life intact in Salt Lake and can come home if it doesn’t work out. Even if it’s terrible, it would still be an adventure. We already know what life in the States is like, let’s try something different. It’s time for an adventure.

I remember the quote, “Opportunity favors the prepared mind.” I’ ll make myself available for opportunities. As we walk towards home, I ask the land if she wants us here. I ask her if she does want us, could she please create an avenue for us to be here?

We stroll down the road where Tao lives. She makes raw cacao dulces with local ingredients. They are the most delicious chocolates I’ve ever tasted. The kids run ahead. She stands in the doorway of her cute little house, all painted turquoise, purple and yellow. It almost feels like she is expecting us. We swarm around her trays of candy, and pick our favorite flavors….mint, ginger-chipotle, black mole, salted caramel.

We stay late, talking with her. She tells us how to move here, how to ship what we need from the States, what properties are available to rent.

Ask dusk settles in we wander home. It’s a gorgeous scene, green mountains covered in mist, with fluffy, pink clouds, and a gentle breeze. The smell of gallo pinto comes from the Tico kitchens and I am smiling.

Leaving Chirripo with a Dream

Last modified on 2012-02-29 12:57:36 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I’m amazed at the tranquility and peace I have felt here in the mountains of Chirripo. I am so sad to leave here, but excited for the beaches and festival in Uvita. I didn’t realize how much I needed to have a big reset on my life….my body, spirit and mind. I didn’t realize how out of touch with myself I’ve been. My long runs in the mornings, my walks at sunset, sitting on the porch watching the clouds and birds.

Yesterday, we went to a trout pond. The kids caught our dinner. I appreciated being in touch with our food. We eat what grows here, what we pick and catch. That experience has been incredible for our kids, who are so removed from food production and what it entails in the US.

The kids were really upset by the violence of fishing. The woman who ran the fish pond peeled their heads off and threw their wiggling bodies in a bucket. It was a quick death, but sad. I had a hard time witnessing it as well, and was left pondering my carnivorous tendencies. The kids all swore they were going to be vegetarians from here on out. Things changed when we cooked up the super fresh trout and the wonderful smell wafted through the air. We asked them if they wanted a bite, and they descended on it like a pack of coyotes! They played all day, hide and seek in the jungle, swam at the swimming hole near the waterfall, and the long walk down the hill to our house at sunset. They had a sleepover with their cute, little friend Nichiya, and all slept on the couch in one big puppy-pile. This is what childhood should be like, rather than over-booked with piano and soccer lessons, rushed here and there.

Such bliss and tranquility here. I’m reticent to leave the mountains and our friends today.

Last night, I had a very powerful dream that I was able to go inside and experience my Gramma’s body. It was such a sad dream. She couldn’t move, and felt itchy because she had a yeast infection. Her body itched and she couldnt reach it with her hands. I was in pain, my head felt heavy. I knew from that place Gramma was going to die soon. In the dream, she had a brain tumor, but there was relief in death because she felt like she was trapped in that body. Such sadness for her and nostalgia. I love her so much. I realized the denial I’ve had about the whole thing.  I’ve been avoiding dealing which her in the nursing home, wanting to be in denial because it’s so painful. It was like the trout pond, that witnessing death is difficult, but denial takes us away from gratitude and appreciation for being alive.

In the dream too, there was that regret Gramma had about being in a place of fear much of her life. She always wanted to move somewhere warm, somewhere tropical. She never really felt connected to Utah. The dream had an overlay of understanding that I was going to shift the trajectory of our family liniage moving from Utah to Costa Rica, and there was great relief in that.

Dream: The Kafka Border Crossing

Last modified on 2012-02-24 13:04:02 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I just awoke with a headache from an intense dream. We had to go to a huge, mega supermart in a big, dirty metropolis. Traffic was terrible getting there and it smelled of burning deisel fuel and sewer gas. A typical big city. Once we got to the enormous store, Martin and I got separated and I didn’t know if the kids were with him, or lost. I searched the store in a panic, but couldn’t find him or the children. I decided not to panic, and calmed down by assuring myself that they must be with him and continued shopping for our necessary supplies.

When I was finished, I went to the check out line. There were hundreds of people waiting in line. The scene was surreal, color washed out and a grinding, Kafka-esque energy to the it. People were waiting for hours to get out, their supplies piled up on the floor in front of them or in baskets. It looked more like refugees trying to get out of a border crossing.

I set my supplies and groceries down and scanned the poeple’s faces looking for my family. Up ahead, I spotted Martin and the kids. Relieved, I turned to a woman standing behind me and asked her to watch my things. She just blankly stared at me and I walked ahead to talk to Martin. He was exasperated with the wait. We agreed on a meeting place after we got through the check out. I went back to my place in line and saw my supplies had been stolen. Angry, I accused the woman behind me, but she shook her head. I went through the line, looking in people’s bags. They tried to push me away or scowl at me, but to no avail. My rage grew in intensity. Finally I turned around and raised up my arms. I screamed as loud as I could, ” I AM SO FRUSTRATED!”

Security guards jumped me, throwing me to the floor. Then I awoke.

Salt Lake City Downtown Library Art Show and Opening Jan 28, 2012

Last modified on 2012-01-06 00:34:54 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

 

Balam with Vision Serpents by Sunny Strasburg
Balam with Vision Serpents by Sunny Strasburg

Sunny Strasburg: The Alchemist’s Path: Navigating and Reclaiming the Depths of Your Soul

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 to Fri, Mar 9, 2012

Talk and Art Show Opening:

Sunny Strasburg: The Alchemist’s Path: Navigating and Reclaiming the Depths of Your Soul
Jan 28-Mar 9
Artist’s Talk & Reception: Sat, Jan 28, 4-5:30pm
Gallery at Library Square
Main Library, Level 4

Presented in conjunction with After So Many Years by Steven J. Fawson.

 

For more details, check out: http://slcpl.org/strasburg

Artist’s Statement: “My art brings universal, archetypal imagery into conscious awareness. My intention is to bring lucidity to the emotional drives and experiences of our life journeys. My hope is that my imagery is evocative enough to stir the psyche and hopefully bring an emotional and insightful experience to the viewer.” Sunny Strasburg adheres to the philosophy that merging mind, body and spirit facilitates the deepest, long-term change. This in turn, opens us to live our lives fully engaged, excited and with a sense of purpose. Sunny has a Master of Arts degree from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Counseling Psychology with a specialty in Depth and Jungian Psychotherapy and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Utah.

“I love to merge psychology with art and see the how archetypal components interact with the psyche. I often use art in my psychotherapy practice.”

Statement Regarding this Body of Work:
Occasionally during a lifetime, one’s psyche bring us a series of memorable and significant dreams. Dreams always present us that which is on the cusp of our consciousness.

My artwork is imagery created from journeys in my own dreamscape. I created these works as I traveled on my heroine’s journey…a process of individuation. Although the art reflects my specific process, symbolically, it points toward the greater collective archetypal unconscious of which the viewer’s psyche is also a participant. I offer my art to serve as portals to access the viewer’s own particular symbolism.

The work in the show is oriented within the context of the Map of the Archetypal Psyche. This map can serve as our guide and an entry point to embark on our journey into the depths of the unconscious. The map encompasses the four fundamental elements of alchemy: Solutio (Water), Calcinatio (Fire), Sublimatio (Air) and finally Coagulatio (Earth). The various works explore blends of these ancient and elemental themes.

These archetypes are reflective of larger, meta-symbolic patterns and themes shared within the collective psyche. I encourage an open-ended interpretation of my works, and hope that the viewer can have a strong resonance with them to reveal something on the edge of articulation.

For more information, please visit www.sunnystrasburg.com.

Tuesday, 8/30, 6:15 – 8:15 PM

Last modified on 2011-09-23 01:06:54 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The Alchemist’s Path: Navigating and Reclaiming the Depths of Your Psyche. Red Lightning Camp 4:45 & Esplanade

In this workshop, we will use the dream workbook, The Alchemist’s Path: Navigating and Reclaiming the Depths of Your Psyche (Strasburg, 2007) as an entry point to discuss how each of our lives are the hero’s journey. The workbook, The Alchemist’s Path contains elemental imagery that Sunny painted from a series of “Big Dreams”. These images are based in alchemy and a visual, elemental and spatial narrative. Each of us creates a “life story” in which we give meaning to our lives. The intention of the imagery and exercises in this presentation are to facilitate a beginning of reclamation- to give meaning and importance to our life stories.

Wednesday, 8/31 1:00- 3:00 PM

Last modified on 2011-09-23 01:06:46 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The Alchemist’s Path: Navigating and Reclaiming the Depths of Your Psyche. Rites of Zion – 10:00 & Esplanade

In this workshop, we will use the dream workbook, The Alchemist’s Path: Navigating and Reclaiming the Depths of Your Psyche (Strasburg, 2007) as an entry point to discuss how each of our lives are the hero’s journey. The workbook, The Alchemist’s Path contains elemental imagery that Sunny painted from a series of “Big Dreams”. These images are based in alchemy and a visual, elemental and spatial narrative. Each of us creates a “life story” in which we give meaning to our lives. The intention of the imagery and exercises in this presentation are to facilitate a beginning of reclamation- to give meaning and importance to our life stories.

Thursday, 9/1, 1:00- 3:00 PM

Last modified on 2011-09-23 01:06:40 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Urban Love: Alchemical Gender Circle. Rites of Zion – 10:00 & Esplanade

The intention and purpose of the Alchemical Gender Circle is to increase understanding of the experiences we have as men and women, both with ourselves and with one another. This is facilitated by enhancing the capacity to listen to another’s experience and creating an intentional space in which we feel open to communicate our feelings.

Saturday, 9/3, 3:00- 5:00 PM

Last modified on 2011-10-14 01:25:00 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Urban Love: Alchemical Gender Circle. Red Lightning Camp 4:45 & Esplanade

The intention and purpose of the Alchemical Gender Circle is to increase understanding of the experiences we have as men and women, both with ourselves and with one another. This is facilitated by enhancing the capacity to listen to another’s experience and creating an intentional space in which we feel open to communicate our feelings.

A lot of my new work will be displayed around the Playa this year. Check it out at:

HATU CORE PROJECT: 3:30 and Circle of Regional Effigies
and
Red Lightning: 4:45 & Esplanade
and
Rites of Zion/Temple of Boom: 10:00 & Esplanade

I’m scheduled to speak about the Alchemist’s Path at the Red Lightening Camp at Burning Man, Tuesday, Aug 30 at 615pm and Saturday 3-5. You can get them from me there! Also, many of my pieces will be out on the Playa and also at Red Lightning Camp.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Red-Lightning/106054305274